Black History Month: A student’s quest to create a truly diverse community

Since beginning my Williams career in the summer of 1996, I have constantly been bombarded with the rhetoric of Williams’ diversity. Each year students are asked to participate in various activities that so call “promote diversity.” Students attend these functions with the idea that they are somehow more enlightened. However, I have notices that students talk of diversity in terms of the isolated Williams experience. While students hesitate to admit the obvious, we must contend that this campus is extremely homogeneous.

We like to think we achieved diversity as a community so long as it does not interfere with out ultimate goal for attending Williams College, to enter into the world of the socioeconomic elite who run this country. However, for the Williams student of color, diversity is not a notion that cannot be ignored. This student cannot talk of being different when it is convenient. Students of color must face the fact that there are marked differences between themselves and the majority of the Williams community. It is the constant reminder of these differences that can make the Williams experience extremely challenging for students of color. When one has to defend himself in the classroom and outside of the classroom it makes for a tense environment in which the students sense of self is slowly chiseled away.

As a black woman there is not a day that passes that I cannot think about my Williams experience in terms of race. My skin and history separate me from the experience of the majority. Feeling the frustration and isolation of many students of color, I understood that I needed to be a part of a community that affirmed and embraced my heritage and intellect, while giving me the necessary outlets to understand my position as a black woman in the United States. I found that environment my junior year at the historically black institution, Spelman College.

The time I spent away was filled with rich and stimulating experiences that could have only been achieved in an environment such as Spelman. Located in Atlanta Georgia, Spelman is seeped in the black tradition of the church and family. It is not only an academic center, it serves as a family in which administrators and professors understand that their primary purpose is to promote growth through conveying knowledge in and out of the classroom. Despite the popular notion that historically black colleges and universities are solely for black students, and therefore not diverse, is a myth that I wish to dispel. Students who attend Spelman were of varying ages, economic backgrounds and ethnicities. In many ways my classes were more diverse than any at Williams. Because Spelman is located in an ever-transforming city, the opportunities to work with others are limitless. I feel the time spent at Spelman was crucial in my development as a black intellectual.

It is because of this feeling that I have been working to establish an intercollegiate exchange between Spelman, Morehouse and Williams Colleges. Currently, Williams has few established intercollegiate programs and no directly outlined programs with historically black institutions. I propose that four students from Williams have the choice of studying at Spelman or Morehouse, and two students each from Spelman and Morehouse have the choice to study at Williams. The all-male Morehouse is the alma mater of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both Morehouse and Spelman have given rise to many of the prolific black leaders of our time. I feel there is a need for students at each institution to branch out and try to understand the history and need for historically black colleges and universities such as Spelman and Morehouse. It is an experience in which I would like all students to be engaged. However, there is a specific need for black students to have the opportunity to understand where blacks have been, where we are, and where we need to go in the education of ourselves and each other.

As we have entered into a new century, it is time that Williams students put aside their complacent attitudes and push for change within our community. The only means of growth is the expansion of our own horizons. We must no longer sit and be content with this purple bubble, the time is now for the bubble to burst so that we may share and understand all of our blessings.