Though racism is a psychological and sociological construction, historical context plays a large part in diversity and race issues. This module seeks to provide a context of American history in terms of multiculturalism and racism, as well as Hope College's own cultural diversity history. Considering that this project fits into the larger discussion of cultural diversity in today's society, it is important to consider how the past influences the present, at both the college and societal levels. The Hope community is undoubtedly influenced by American society, and therefore, understanding the framework of diversity issues within American history, as well as Hope's own history, provides a broader context for moving forward towards reconciliation.
Colonization during the 15th and 16th centuries caused Europeans to develop the concept of race, a social construct rooted in this time period that acutely de-civilized natives and "justified" European transgressions against people of the New World. Race economically provided what European settlers were looking for: free labor. The economic and social structures put in place by Europeans followed the United States into its foundation and early history.
Moving to American history, this module provides a context to the issues Hope College has faced since its foundation after the Civil War. Beginning with our country's foundation and continuing to the present, both of the American history portions of this module supply a glimpse into the larger framework of American culture and how past events influence the present condition.
The module also focuses specifically on Hope College history. Though the Hope community has been affected by events outside of West Michigan, there are specific milestones within Hope history that provide an understanding of the current campus climate. Since the college's foundation, there have been numerous changes to structures, policies, and the student body that have impacted the dynamic and on-going discussion of race at the college.
By understanding these key events and concepts, we can see the issues of Hope College, as well as the world around us, more clearly and therefore develop better strategies to face the specific challenges that lie before us as a community. Looking to the past is often how we are best able to understand and comprehend the present. History plays a large part in perpetuating cycles and creating the dynamics that we see today.