This week, we at Goshen College have dedicated ourselves to recognize two incredibly important subjects—Sexual Violence Awareness Week and the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.
These two events both have huge implications, both globally and here on our campus. With the growing number of Latino and Hispanic heritage students at GC, the Latino Student Union certainly has a reason to celebrate and publicize pride in their diverse cultures this year, as every year. I recognize that focusing on a particular week or month in order to talk about Hispanic heritage is not sufficient on its own, but I hope that this month can serve as a focusing mechanism that will lead to more joyful celebration of heritage in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum, Sexual Violence Awareness Week is not celebrated, but recognized—and Goshen needs to recognize it just as much as any other college campus. And once again, dedicating a week to the topic is not enough to justify ignoring it for the rest of the year, but it is a way to provide clear space to learn and share.
While sexual violence awareness and celebration of Hispanic heritage approach important subjects in completely different ways, there are also some surprising and helpful similarities. In my opinion, the Goshen College community does an incredible job of working to teach those who have experienced injustice in both of these categories that their lives are worth more than the world has taught that they’re worth.
We learn that a victim of violence is never to blame. We know that undocumented persons have the right to a safe and happy life. It is engrained in our minds that consent is the number one priority, and that anyone has the right to withdraw consent—at any time. It is shared over and over that those with diverse backgrounds, mixed heritages, international families and/or longstanding traditions are all blessed—and that their unique perspective is beautiful and valued. Sometimes these important concepts are repeated so often that we feel like we’ve heard it a million times.
And yet, although we know these things, some reactions are so deeply engrained in our minds and larger culture that we have trouble remembering what we know. Negative interactions and experiences leave us reeling; we go back to the same insecurities that we thought we had banished forever.
My hope is that we can take this week and this month as a challenge—to celebrate, to grieve, and to internalize the positive truths that we know but we can’t always remember.