InterVarsity leads discussions about the importance of acknowledging ethnicity

Senior English major Jordan Ray, of Edwardsville, participates in a group discussion during InterVarsity's third week of their Beyond Colorblind series.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship asks students to examine and share their feelings about their ethnicities in a four-week series called Beyond Colorblind.

InterVarsity kicked off the fall semester with the Beyond Colorblind Proxe Station, which allowed members of the organization to interact with other members of the SIUE community and spark an important conversation about what it means to be colorblind in terms of race and ethnicity. 

The goal of this display was to get people thinking and talking about ethnicity and the impact of being ‘colorblind,’ according to senior marketing major and president of SIUE’s chapter of InterVarsity Kaitlyn Campbell, of Heyworth, Illinois.

“A couple weeks ago, we had what we call a proxe station on campus, [and] it’s just like an interactive display,” Campbell said. “So, we had it set up in the Goshen for two days and then out by the Cougar Statue, and then we’re just asking people this question, ‘What is colorblindness? —  Is it helpful? Is it invalidating?’ And just kind of getting people’s take on what colorblindness does to us.”

According to Christopher Shaw, a campus staff minister with InterVarsity and Edwardsville native, the organization views colorblindness as a problematic concept because it fails to recognize individuals’ experiences.

“Being colorblind is ignoring people’s race and ethnicity or thinking that they’re not relevant to who they are,” Shaw said. “And a lot of people say, ‘Oh, I don’t see your color, I just see you.’ And it’s all good intentioned, it really is, but we believe that your ethnicity is part of who you are and how God made you.”

The proxe station was followed by weekly meetings, beginning on Sept. 12, which further explored the topics of ethnicity and colorblindness. These meetings include both multimedia and interpersonal aspects, Campbell said.

“It’s a four-week series we do on Thursday nights in the MUC, and we’ve been meeting each week to just talk about our own stories and share them,” Campbell said. “So, we watch little videos and study scriptures and things that talk about different people’s experiences with ethnicities, but then also we talk about it amongst ourselves.”

Each of the four weekly meetings has focused on a specific topic within the broader theme of ethnicity, according to Shaw.

“The first week, we talked about beauty and how each of our ethnicities were made for good and how every ethnicity is beautiful,” Shaw said. “And the second week, we talked about brokenness, so it’s pretty obvious, there’s a lot of brokenness in our ethnicities. Then [last] week, [we talked] about redemption and just how Jesus came down and is actually seeking to restore us in our ethnicities. And then [this] week, we’ll talk about how we can take part in that.”

Campbell emphasized diversity as a major focus of the organization and said it would be difficult and unreasonable not to discuss topics revolving around ethnicity because of the various cultures represented within the community and the country.

“InterVarsity exists to be a multiethnic, multicultural community that connects people from different places, different cultures, different backgrounds,” Campbell said. “So, that’s like the heart of our God and the heart of our organization, so it’s only natural for that to flow into like, ‘Let’s talk about this.’ Not to mention that it’s a super relevant thing in our country today, that to not talk about it almost seems more inauthentic.” 

Senior human resource management student and InterVarsity’s women’s fellowship coordinator Samantha Johnson, of Shannon, Illinois, said she appreciates how the organization facilitates these conversations and encourages students to discuss difficult topics.

“It’s easy as a white person to ignore those things,” Johnson said. “Honestly, you don’t have to press into uncomfortable ethnic and racial conversations if you don’t want to because it’s a privilege, so it’s really cool that InterVarsity gives me the space to do that in a really healthy way.”

Junior anthropology major and InterVarsity’s large group coordinator Megan Walsh, of Toledo, Illinois, agreed with Johnson, saying she’s been a member of the organization since her freshman year because she values the group’s exploration of tough subject matters.

“The reason why I’m involved in this campus ministry is because of its heart for this and issues like this,” Walsh said. “We talk about the hard stuff like race and women’s roles in the church and what that looks like to be a leader as a woman in the church. We look at the hard stuff, which is why I’ve always been drawn to InterVarsity.” 

InterVarsity’s final Beyond Colorblind discussion will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3 in the Mississippi/Illinois Room. The event is open and free to all. 

To learn more about InterVarsity, visit their website at intervarsity.org/.

 

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