Ferguson and South Orange through Midwestern eyes

There aren’t many more remarkable experiences than taking the 8:07 p.m. train from New York City and getting off in the small village of South Orange less than an hour later. It’s a daunting change of scenery for a Midwesterner like me, and the two places–the big city and the small village– couldn’t be more different. But there is one common theme between the two, and it’s a theme that I’ve come to embrace at 400 South Orange Ave. as a student at Seton Hall University.

The diversity that I’ve encountered in New York and in a little more than a year at the school made me nervous at first. How could a kid from Cleveland’s West Side fit into the equation at a place just 14 miles outside of a city that never sleeps? But it’s this diversity that has given me an incomparable experience, one that enriches me every day.

While I find great satisfaction in living with differences, the role that diversity takes on has had a completely different meaning for the last month in Ferguson, Mo. With the investigation of police officer Darren Wilson in the death of 18-year old Michael Brown ongoing, protests have continued and tensions remain high.

What stands out to me most is the focus of this investigation since it began. The death of a teenager took a back seat, and the threats began to a police officer who up until now has not been proven to have broken his vow to protect. It amazes me to think that what has come to be such a refreshing journey for me because of the many different people I have encountered on this campus can be the very same force that leads to such violence elsewhere in our country.

As I moved in two weeks ago, the question popped into my head, "What’s the point?"

What is the point of defining people by the color of their skin? Here at Seton Hall, I have not felt that idea once. Two of my suitemates are African American, and I don’t know what life would be like on this campus without them. I’ve heard it said that the people you meet in college are the ones you know for the rest of your life. In just a year at Seton Hall, I can say I’ve seen a small fragment of this already taking shape for me.

At a place where "many are one," there is a positive model of diversity. And while Ferguson is still creating headlines around the nation, what I would encourage both newcomers and returners at The Hall to do is one thing: give diversity a chance. I did it, and it’s provided an experience unlike any other.

John Fanta is a sophomore journalism student from Westlake, Ohio. He can be reached at John.Fanta@student.shu.edu.

Author: John Fanta

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