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Bringing to Light the Context of Conversation

Note: on 12/11/17, the author’s name was anonymized by Editor’s decision for the author’s protection. 

After reading Nora’s article and the response that followed, I cannot think of a better time to come out with a perspective held by countless students of color, as well as allies, on this campus. I am being as tame as possible when I express this viewpoint: people of whiteness have historically been incapable of hearing people of color and have delegitimized their perspectives by trying to explain their own good intentions. When people of color point out how certain moments may trigger feelings of racialization, people of whiteness feel compelled to provide context, justify their intentions, make sure that a person of color’s perspective does not hold the absolute weight that it demands. When we do not budge on our demands, the response can often be aggressive.

For example, Nora’s article communicated the impression that the College was not accommodating the needs of its faculty of color, based on both telling statistics, as well as first-hand accounts. As a student of color, going to a college where white culture finds itself choking on my day to day, it is important to have allies in the administration and faculty, those with institutional experience to help us through our unique pressure. When reading Nora’s article, it is a scary thought to consider who we students of color can go to when our few allies are overburdened and considering other more welcoming spaces.

As mentioned earlier, I do not expect people of whiteness to understand this fear. That is why the response article to Nora’s piece, along with its comments section, was no surprise. The response came from a graduate, with connections to the Corporation, the College’s Presidency, and, most importantly, to his race, choosing to belittle and speak condescendingly to the perspective of students of color. His response affirms what Nora’s original article pointed out. Certain people of whiteness, who act as administrators, staff, and even professors will not see the need for diversity as a priority but instead condescendingly scoff or contextualize the issue away.

What would it mean to push harder on this issue, and where is the security for faculty, students and staff speaking out? It is absolutely important to point out the actions of white people in this letter, not only because these are the terms that students of color use when discussing these issues, but also by calling these actions out as undertaken by white people, we begin to see how their apathy and aggressive reaction can be placed in the context of historical trends. If we do not articulate how race very much plays a part in our abilities to empathize or react, then professors, administrators, and students of whiteness will continue to be “color-blind”, failing to consider how their action or inaction will affect community members of color. An important first step is to give space for people of color to bring to light their sense of racialization, instead of blindly falling back into the power dynamics historically abused by white people.