Always be careful what you wish for…

I started writing this column with the goal of sparking campus debate. It seemed to me that far too many of us were ignoring issues on campus that I felt needed attention. It was my intention to try to throw the spotlight onto these questions and get students interested in talking about them. I guess I wanted to provoke a reaction. Seems like I’ve gotten what I wanted.

I’ve received quite a bit of feedback about my article that was printed two weeks ago; much of it was negative. Most of that criticism was personified in an article written by Boisseau Michael Woltz. I’d like to respond to the criticisms of the article first and then I’ll address the assertions made more about me and less about the article.

The first thing that needs clarification is that the article that I wrote was not about a basketball game. It was about the state of race relations on this campus and what I see as conscious neglect of them on our part as a student body. The basketball game was an anecdote designed to demonstrate what I see as racial strife on campus and lead into a further discussion of those race relations. But I understand that some people are quite interested in this incident so I will address it here briefly.

Before the first article was printed, I had a conversation with Junior Reid, the referee, in the weight room. I told him what I had written and what it said about him. He agreed with me that the game was disturbing and said that it was fine with him to print the article. Whether or not he was actually biased in officiating the game is not the point. The point is that when issues of racial tension can develop from an intramural basketball game, then there exists a serious problem that we need to address.

Some have taken issue with the comments I had on the Black Student Union. Here I think that most are jumping to conclusions. I noted that the BSU serves to foster a distinct strong black identity on campus. This is an example of an institution doing what it is needed to do and doing it well. This is a positive condition in my opinion. All should be able to take pride and have a sense of unity in their culture.

At the same time, however, the Black Student Union, being that it is the only institution of its kind, becomes a polarizing force on campus. Many are opposed to its existence. Personally, I’m not, but those who are are also afraid of expressing those opinions. They fear being labeled as racist for their views. This is a problem.

When a student effectively cannot express his viewpoint then the dialogue that we need on this campus becomes inherently flawed. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the BSU as an institution. It is the fact that it has become a taboo subject for discussion that I am in disagreement with.

The last criticism seems to come with my characterization of the “black” table in Baxter at meal times. Here perhaps I made myself unclear. It was not my intention to criticize those students who sit there, but more to comment on the racial divide that exists at meal times. The separation at mealtimes is a reflection of the division of the campus. It’s no one’s fault in particular, but this separation is a problem that all of us need to take responsibility for.

Now, I would like to address those comments directed towards me. I believe I was referred to as a hypocrite, racist and coward. So, why don’t we begin with the first?

In my article I referred to myself as a hypocrite on this subject. That self-analysis was then echoed in Mr. Woltz’s article. I guess I asked for that one, but in general I don’t really need people I don’t know confirming my opinions of myself. I have friends and family for that one.

I’m then referred to as a racist. Throwing around the term racist irresponsibly can be a very dangerous thing. Accusations should not be made without basis. I feel that this was one. And, for anyone who would like further evidence that this was off base I’d be happy to open up my family photo album.

Lastly, it is intimated that I’m a coward. Apparently the reasoning behind this is that I wrote out my opinion, signed my name to it and then published it where it was likely to reach the greatest number of people. I cannot agree.

I had lunch with Mike Woltz on Saturday. We had a long discussion and I believe taught each other a great deal. His proposal to create several large forums to address these issues is a good one that each of us needs to take part in. Further, these forums need to include specifically those who would not normally go. I am speaking of the apathetic. They are the ones that we need to get involved.

Mike’s email is 00bmw and mine is 01tak. We can organize these forums, but without campus support they will fail.

I had a point when I began writing that first article and I’m afraid it’s going to get lost so here it is again: Forget basketball. At Williams we have issues with race relations. Most of us will admit to the problem and then deny any responsibility. This is the worst part. Only if each of us accepts responsibility for this situation can we take steps towards rectifying it.

To borrow from Saturday Night Live, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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