Many students are often uncomfortable talking to others about current issues, such as race or same-sex marriage. But speaking with others who have other opinions or perspectives is an important step in closing the gap – not necessarily coming to an agreement but hearing out another’s view and respecting what they have to say.

As mentioned in Sybrina Fulton’s keynote speech at Grand Valley State University on MLK Day, an important aspect to reducing the amount of racial inequalities is to not remain silent about these kinds of issues.

For students and others at GVSU, there are many opportunities to become engaged and aware of racial discussion. During this February’s Black History Month, the Office of Multicultural Affairs has organized many workshops that involve the student population.

The national movement #BlackLivesMatter emerged on social media after the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy, in Florida. This movement has been used many times since, especially during the more recent incidents in Ferguson, Mo. Students were the primary users of this hashtag on Twitter, and it was the students who took the voices of the online world into the real world of their campuses across the nation.

The LGBT Resource Center also hosts events throughout the year to foster discussion. Students can learn more about the LGBT community, ask questions or voice their opinions at these events to gain a more educated perspective and feel more comfortable discussing these topics in the future.

Students can also start locally by getting involved with campus organizations such as You Beautiful Black Women, Black Student Union, Black Leaders Aspiring for Critical Knowledge, Out ‘N About, First-year Queer Alliance and Loud & Queer.

It is our responsibility as students to utilize these opportunities presented to us by the university to learn more about the world today so that we can make change where it is needed in the future. It is up to the students to get the discussion started.