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Angela Y. Davis:

by Staff Editorial

Uncovering the uncomfortable in race converstions

Tue, Feb 28th 2017 09:00 pm
Elizabeth Pritchard/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST

The College at Brockport is home to multiple cultural clubs and diversity initiatives which promote diversity and encourage conversations of race on campus. However, despite encouragement for all students to attend, there is a lack of white participance at many of these events.
Elizabeth Pritchard/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST The College at Brockport is home to multiple cultural clubs and diversity initiatives which promote diversity and encourage conversations of race on campus. However, despite encouragement for all students to attend, there is a lack of white participance at many of these events.

 We watched the iconic Angela Y. Davis grace the stage to speak during the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Lecture Tuesday, Feb. 21. We listened as the activist disassembled the institution of racism and its many structures. 

We shouted, jumped about and gave multiple standing ovations. A few "black power" fists even disrupted the air. We were enamored by her courage, her wit and her story. We were inspired. Now what?

"Eradicating racism doesn't bring the races together," Davis said.

Then what will?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Racism" is "prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior."

Here at The Stylus know what you're thinking. The years of Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, 911 and Jewish concentration camps are not behind us.   

We can't even draw a diverse crowd at a major culture event on campus. The result? The start of a mass load of diversity initiatives. 

Do you know who attends diversity initiatives? People who are already aware of the racial and cultural divide that can appear in an environment where multiple ethnicities are represented. 

Do you know who's not attending? The people ripping hijabs off Muslims, hanging black dolls by makeshift nooses from elevator shafts and those who are not discriminatory, but feel uncomfortable talking about race. We have no hope for the first two, so let's focus on the last one.

White guilt. 

If you're clamming up right now, don't. This section is for you. The reason white people might feel uncomfortable attending minority-dominated events and discussions centered on diversity is because they do not understand there is a problem. 

To make things clear, there is a problem. Those who do understand the problem (and most do), don't want to be put into a situation where the actions of white people as a whole are thrust upon them. 

Also, how is the presence of a white person at a predominantly-minority event taken by everyone else? Is it an intrusion on their family atmosphere or are they welcomed into it with open arms? 

If you're white and these are some of thoughts running through your mind when race is the topic of the evening, hakuna matata. It's okay.

Recognizing the bias. 

People need to understand that they do have biases and racist thoughts. More importantly, we need to understand where these cognitive structures come from and understand how they affect us. Also, we need to recognize those thoughts and fight them within ourselves.

"Invitational rhetoric": an invitation to understanding as a means to create a relationship rooted in equality, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The best way to get people to face their ideas of race is to be more inviting in situations of unspoken exclusivity. 

If you're a minority, allow others to voice their views. Challenge their opinions if you must and respectfully derail any skewed views of race that come your way. If you're on the other side, be transparent. Let your fears be known and give minorities a chance to make you feel more comfortable in whatever racial surroundings you find yourself to be in.

Patience is a virtue.

"People want the issue to be resolved tomorrow or the day after that or the day after that," Davis said. "But reversing this type of thinking takes several decades."

Preach, Angela. Preach. 

We live in a world that is vast and inhabited by a multitude of lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. However, the more you talk about diversity, the easier it becomes to talk about. For those who are culturally competent, frustration toward those who aren't is common and justifiable. Individuals who don't recognize the obvious forms of oppression in a society often, unknowingly, devalue the feelings of the oppressed. 

Speaking of the oppressed, you must continue to tell your stories. "Racist" is code for "ignorant." Educate them about the many areas of institutional racism and its presence in the United States. Talk about the things that don't make it into our history books while including experiences of your own as well as others. "Knowledge" is code for "awareness."

Diversifying diversity. 

For the most part, Brockport has got the right idea with Community Conversations on diversity and controlling the campus atmosphere, but this brings us right back to our initial problem. The people attending are already having these conversations. 

If everything previously stated above doesn't temper the feeling of guilt, then make diversity classes mandatory. Turn them into General Education requirements so they'll be hearing it  from somewhere. 

Also, having these conversations in a class atmosphere might encourage others to voice how they feel. 

We don't need individuals to worry about political correctness for fear of offending someone. We have to have these conversations filter free and the classroom - the traditional space for learning - is the perfect setting to do so. 

The responsibility of contributing to a more inclusive atmosphere falls on us all because whether you're dripping white guilt or foaming at the mouth as a result of white privilege, racism affects us all.