CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill participates in Rutgers Access Week
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill visited Rutgers as part of "Access Week" to discuss the role of diversity in a university setting. He initially approached the stage to the song "P.I.M.P." by 50 Cent before commencing his hour-long lecture.
Hill is an award-winning journalist, author, activist, professor and political commentator for CNN. He frequently travels to universities across the country to discuss ways to promote diversity in college environments, he said.
“The question is, is this thing working right? I am going around the country and around the world and universities everywhere and I have yet to find a place that says this thing is working right. And the thing that continues to nudge at us and nag us is the question of diversity. So I want to talk this afternoon about how we can think about diversity and how we can get the kind of environment,” he said.
Hill began his speech by stating that diversity is beneficial to everyone at an institution, not just the minority communities it appears to revolve around.
“What we fail to recognize either in our empirical analysis of the data or in our cultural practices and rituals is the fact that the diversified institution, diversified university is a benefit to the university itself … We benefit from having women in the room, we benefit from having (transgender individuals) in the room, we benefit from having queer folk in the room,” he said.
Hill said data suggest heterogeneous groups reach conclusions more quickly than people of the same sort, which acts as proof that diversity is beneficial to everyone.
Homogeneous groups take longer to come to conclusions, whereas a group with diversity can arrive at a more dynamic conclusion to come up with more innovative conclusions, he said.
“They arrive at things they otherwise would not if they didn't have people from different traditions from different worlds that have different experiences,” he said.
Hill elaborated on the stereotypes minorities face. He said even when they are perceived as positive, stereotypes are still detrimental.
To provide an example, Hill discussed a student he taught who was of Cambodian descent and was labeled as advanced at math because of her race, despite not being good at the subject.
“The assumption that the stereotype, as long as it's 'positive,' would be one that wouldn't cause any harm or damage is somewhat short sighted because (first) it (loses sight) of the fact that she's not good at math because you can't assume it … Second, if she fails at math or just average at math she's going to get a different look from the teacher like ‘oh you should be doing much better, you're clearly not putting the effort in’ or even if you do well, it wouldn't be attributed to your talents,” Hill said.
Hill went on to discuss gender diversity and said it holds equal importance to racial diversity in university settings.
It does not matter if a university is 60 percent women if all of those women are only in fields deemed appropriate by the patriarchy, as opposed occupying science and technology-based fields, Hill said. Situations like that indicate an institutional and structural problem.
Hill said there exists a “hidden curriculum," a conditioning for consumerism. This kind of “hidden curriculum” happens when institutions pay attention to one area to appear inclusive, but neglect other areas.
This kind of conditioning occurs when there are prayer rooms in schools but nothing to accommodate Muslim students, or when the media covers events in France but will not report on bombings in Lebanon, Hill said.
“The whole village of Nigerian girls were missing and we had to fight to get it on TV. A whole group of Mexican teenagers, college students actually, went missing ... We still looking for them. White folk go missing (and) the people at colleges (are) going to send a message about whose body matters, whose lives matter. That's my black folks have to scream our lives matter. Black lives matter,” he said.
The Black Lives Matter movement, Hill said, is not meant to imply that any lives supersede each other.
“The reason we were jacked (about) All Lives Matter is not because we don't think all lives matter, it's because of the timing of the introduction. If black folks were hanging from trees (and) you said ‘hey all lives matter,' if we are picking cotton and you said ‘Wait let me help, all lives matter,' if we were getting locked up … and committed, if you said ‘We have to stop this because all lives matter’ when our leaders are assassinated, (if you) said ‘No don't kill them, all lives matter’ … (The timing) makes me question your attention because there's a whole lotta lives that didn't seem to matter when they were banned from the country two weeks ago. All lives matter would have come in handy right about then,” he said.
Hill finished off the lecture by taking questions from the crowd.
“I was incredibly grateful, not just for the invitation but for the institutional commitment (by Rutgers) for diversity and inclusion. I’m sure we have long way to go but, all institutions do, but having only committed to thinking through questions and issues of diversity is incredibly important. Recognizing the significance of it, not reducing it to a day or a moment or workshop, is incredibly significant,” Hill said.
Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the Associate News Editor for The Daily Targum.