By BROOKE EDDINGTON
Cultural diversity took on more meaning as a mixed group of BYU patrons were challenged to be agents of change Tuesday night, Feb. 10.
“No one is born a bigot,” said Michael Styles, program director of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission. “Someone has to teach you to hate. One of the things our commission does is teach people to love.”
The Commission is not a black focus group, but a results-driven program that utilizes volunteers of different cultures to provide mentoring and tutoring services for children at risk, Styles said. He explained how their current literacy program is helping children, such as a struggling first-grader at Backman Elementary who understands only a Somali language. Styles then urged people to get involved.
He went on to talk about growing up in pre-1970s east Salt Lake City. His family moved into their all-white neighborhood at midnight to avoid problems with the neighbors. However, for at least the first year, the family received phone calls in the middle of every night, demanding that they leave the neighborhood.
Incidents like these have dwindled, Styles said, in part because of the efforts of the LDS Church to push diversity and acceptance. He observed that BYU defines the combination of faith and culture that his organization works for.
“I just think it’s great that BYU is focusing so much on diversity,” said Elizabeth Rotz, 23, studying school counseling and psychology. “It’s nice to get ideas on how we can go on with promoting diversity after we leave.”
Ahmed Banya, 28, majoring in agriculture, said as people travel, they learn to appreciate differences. However, he said for those who do not have the opportunity to travel, trying to understand the value systems and tapping the knowledge of others accomplishes the same thing.
“We’re living in a multi-cultural society, y’all!” Styles said.