According to the way we categorize people in our society, I am a white male. Because of the necessity of categorizing and labeling things in order to communicate, I will accept my classification. I will also categorize other people.
When I pass a black person on Williams campus I notice that the person whom I am passing is black. This could be due to the demographics of Williams, a place in which there is definitely a racial majority. It could be due to my upbringing in a homogeneous Utah Valley population. It could be due to a stereotyped portrayal of blacks that I have seen on t.v. Or it could be because the person is black.
It is not a bad thing that I notice black people. I also notice women and short people and people who wear blue shirts. We should notice the distinctions among the people who make up the Williams community.
College is a time for people to explore who they are and what defines them and what makes them distinct. Many students take the time away from home to learn about their cultural heritage. Students should be encouraged to figure out everything that makes up who they are, including their racial identities. We all need to grant that race does play a role in defining who we are. However, we also need to admit that race is not our single defining characteristic. Therefore the racial segregation at Williams should be remedied.
It is easy to notice the segregation when you see a congregation of a racial minority. They are a minority because there aren’t as many of them around, so when there is a congregation of them it is easy to notice the segregation. However, I am sure that members of the majority race also segregate themselves.
Our goal should be to treat each other and interact with each other as individuals. In order to do that we need to figure out what makes each one of us a unique individual. When interacting with others we need to look beyond the initial categorization of race. We also need to avoid self-segregation that is based on the superficial boundary of race.
There is no need for assimilation into one boring Williams culture. There is no need to deny our cultural heritage. But we do need to break down the racial boundaries that separate and isolate us.
I have noticed some impressive work in this direction. It was great to see Grace Rubenstein stepping with Sankofa. I was pleased to see Suzanne Wall as the MC for the Chinese New Year’s Dinner. I am also glad that Dave Golden sings with Prizm.
Surely we can create a less racially segregated campus. In order to achieve this end, consider sharing aspects of yourself (e.g. cultural heritage) with people who do not share those same character traits. Consider what composes your identity besides race. Consider walking into a class or a concert at which you do not know many people, and sitting next to the person who you think is least like you.
Race relations can only be a problem if there is racial segregation. Let’s treat people as individuals so that race relations is not an issue.