Ah, race relations. A delicate subject, to say the least. While my friends will probably cringe upon hearing that I have chosen to speak on such a topic, they will have to deal. Their cringing has nothing to do with an avoidance or distaste for the subject, but rather a wariness of my style of discussion. So without further ado, I wade in.
I just finished reading Timothy Karpoff’s article from the last issue, “Lessons learned from C-League.” I found it to be an interesting look at race relations, seeing them through a basketball game. I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment that if tensions exist, they exist between whites and blacks, rather than between whites and minorities in general.
I also agree that the distinct culture presented by the BSU is the determining factor, though neither Karpoff nor I would blame the BSU itself, if I may put words in his mouth. Finally, he was right on when stating that the real issue is that we have no race relations at all, rather than bad ones.
However, it is from this point on that I am not sure where he suggests we go. I did not have the same background as he (my schools were divided almost exactly like Williams), so I cannot speak to that type of situation.
I can speak to the experiences I have had here, though. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad racial experience here at Williams, outside of losing to an all black team by 40 in B-League. (That was a joke. They were just better.) Having said that, one of my friends will surely remind me of an episode that I have forgotten, but I will press on anyway.
I have found that the two cultures do exist, but I do not think that it is anyone’s fault. I think that if there is blame to be laid, it should be laid squarely on the shoulders of the institutions that allow for such division. If the College really wants to bring races together, then they should create situations where there is no choice but to interact. Yes, this is vague and idealistic, but what I see around me are black kids doing one thing and white kids another. I will give you an example.
I don’t really have any black friends, but there is one guy I do know who serves my point well. He is a great kid, a good basketball player, and likes rap music. I think I’m a decent guy, and I love basketball and rap.
Yet our interactions are limited to talking smack at B-League games, saying hey at meals, and participating in March Madness pools. Is this because we are bad people? No. Are we guilty of some unmentionable faux pas? No. We just hang in different circles.
The point to this is that I am not sure that there is much that can be done with the present conditions. When white kids come to campus as first-years, they go on WOOLF trips. Minorities participate in Windows on Williams. When One Fell Swoop plays in Goodrich, the audience is pale. When Rakim plays Lasell, the makeup is much darker.
We simply don’t have many functions, institutions, etc. that serve as melting pots. And in high school it is the same. I think that the Log and the dining halls are two places where these interactions could occur, but by the time we get to these places, the patterns are already set.
To wrap this up, I believe that the problem is not specific to Williams. While we have a lower proportion of minorities than many state schools, this discrepancy only serves to highlight the problem, not cause it.
Society, through educational and cultural means, has shaped the patterns of our relations to the point that it seems nearly impossible to get out of the ruts. I would not suggest that we should not try to do what we can to foster improved connections between blacks and whites. I would simply say that our best efforts will not dent the problem unless we as an American society work to make changes. The barriers need to be broken long before we get to college.