As children of the constantly changing 21st century, we often encounter people whose race, religion and other beliefs differ from our own. Andover, an “intentionally diverse” community, is very aware of this and tries to recreate the world in smaller terms on its own campus. In most cases, it succeeds. When I look around, I see a large range of countries and cultures represented. I hear about different ideologies and find that we all have different political views.
Andover’s philosophy of cultural diversity is what spoke to me the most when I applied. Before I arrived, I assumed that it would be true not only on paper, but also in practice. Sadly, I’ve found that this is not always the case.
I’m not saying that Andover isn’t diverse—far from it. But I have noticed that many students do not have very diverse groups of friends. Of course, you don’t choose your friends primarily on the basis of their race or background, but on this campus, some students tend to hang out with other people of the same race.
Last weekend, Bancroft hosted the movie “Mean Girls.” There was quite a turnout to watch a jolly Santa proclaim “Four for you Glenn Coco. You go Glenn Coco!” The movie, however, is more than just two hours of pure, guffaw-inducing, Tina Fey comedy. It deals with the very real problem of cliques, and even more subtly, cliques that are based on race.
In the film, the students split up and form lunch tables strictly for the group they identify with: the “cool Asians,” the “not-so-cool Asians” and the “unapproachable black hotties,” etc. The satire is meant to parallel what occurs in real high school, where people with similar backgrounds simply seem to gravitate towards each other. There are exceptions to the rule, but a surprising number of people, even at Andover, form social groups largely of the same race.
This trend is understandable. It can seem easier to be friends with people you can relate to, and having similar lifestyles is often what brings people together. Despite this, Andover’s diverse campus is too good of an opportunity to waste. We must be open to diversity in order to fulfill our mission of “Youth from Every Quarter.”
Through the creation of these cliques, Andover becomes an even more accurate reflection of the real world. There is a lack of racial diversity everywhere, not just on our campus. Yet I assumed it would be different at Andover. It’s a problem that is somewhat hidden from view and rarely acknowledged, but a problem nonetheless.
Our tendency to associate with those of the same race is not something that can be solved by the administration. We ourselves must take action. For older students, this may not be easy after several years here and having settled into your friend groups, but I urge you to challenge yourself. Consider getting to know more of your classmates, not just those of different races, but also the students you have never even spoken to before. You may find that, although you can’t relate to them in some ways, in others you are just alike.
When it comes to learning about people different from you, this campus provides a wealth of opportunity. I don’t know about you, but that’s the reason I came to Andover.
Skylar-Bree Takyi is a Junior from East Orange, NJ.