Goshen College’s affinity groups are coming together to host a dance on March 31. I am on the leadership team for Latino Student Union (LSU) and for the past five weeks LSU, Black Student Union (BSU), Asian Student Association,  Commuter Student Association, International Student Club and Advocates have been meeting to bring this event to life.

I want to acknowledge that the idea for this event was an initiative started by BSU. Planning for this event has not been easy. We are all students with busy schedules. But, let me tell you that it has been worthwhile. 

While the event itself is wonderful and all, what this dance represents is even better. Our campus is increasingly becoming more diverse; however, most intercultural groups do not normally mix as much as you would think.

It happens at GC, but also in the wider community. 

This could come from many lifetimes of minority groups being pitted against each other as an effective form of oppression. Sociologists have even invented a nifty word for the tactic: horizontal hostility, the equally oppressed turning on each other in hopes of bettering their own position. 

So why is collaboration of this nature so important? Well, first, it emphasizes common interests rather than differences. We are becoming more aware of our similarities, along with cultural differences, realizing that it doesn’t have to paralyze or divide us. 

Through common interests we can learn to translate “different from me” and “less than me” into “like me in lots of important ways.” As a result, “difference” becomes less of a barrier to future collaborations. 

Second, it makes for more effective communication among groups. Understanding how people communicate is the first step toward understanding and respecting each other. 

Third, it brings awareness to and enhances our understanding of each other’s cultures. Our lives are enriched when there is shared knowledge of our life experiences. Each person brings different perspectives and communication styles that broaden our view of the world. 

Finally, it creates community. As our campus becomes more culturally diverse, some cultural groups will have different experiences than others. If we learn to understand and value the growing diversity and look to each other as people with similar interests rather than adversaries, we will be more invested in the idea of caring for one another. 

This dance and all the planning that has been done have given us, as affinity groups, an opportunity to be in community and build genuine relationships with each other. 

Dr. Gilberto Pérez, Jr., vice president for student life and dean of students, expressed with teary eyes his proud feelings for this student-led initiative to bring affinity groups together. 

He said, and I am paraphrasing, that we are modeling what people out there in society have tried and failed to do time and time again. Not everyone, but most places. 

We are acknowledging the beauty in our differences. We are doing the difficult and the challenging. We are working together. 

The dance is only the beginning. It is the start, I hope, to many great things to come! Now that the connections have been made and the relationships established, imagine the possibilities for future collaborations. 

Relationships are powerful and our connections with each other are the foundation for change.

For those interested in celebrating and uplifting intercultural students, the dance will take place March 31 from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. in the Music Center Lobby.