Today in class as we discussed Nella Larson’s Quicksand, I brought up the distinction in Helga’s life between fitting in and belonging. I expressed that although Helga was able to “fit in” in Naxos, Harlem, and Copenhagen, after some period of time she left each of these places due to a hollow feeling of loneliness that resulted from not being truly accepted by the people that surrounded her. While “fitting in” is something external, more decided by others, I think that “belonging” is something that one has to decide and internalize for his/herself. I made my contribution to the conversation, RJ brought to the class’s attention that a similar issue exists at Vanderbilt: the difference between diversity and inclusion.
Before this topic was discussed in class today, I had never applied it to Vanderbilt. I look around as I walk through campus and in all of my classes and see people from all around the country and world and of all different races and ethnicities and thought that was inclusion. I did not stop to contemplate whether each of these students consider Vanderbilt as much of a home as I do. I attended mandatory events for Greek members under the umbrella of “Diversity and Inclusion” and presumed that it meant Vanderbilt, and more specifically Greek life at Vanderbilt, was a developed and accepting community. I did not remember that my own chapter is overwhelmingly white. However, I now understand from our class discussion today and from further reflection that I was able to view Vanderbilt as such a safe place for all people because I am in the majority of white, straight, cis-gendered students.
I am not saying that Vanderbilt is not an inclusive and accepting community, I think that it is in many ways, but I think that for students in the majority that have never felt marginalized by Vanderbilt’s predominately white student body, it is difficult to see the ways in which it is not.