Why race? Why does that seem to be the only aspect of diversity ever discussed at Williams? Actually, it’s not talked about all that often as a whole campus. One series of forums my sophomore year is the only focused examination of race of which I have been a part. Yet, whenever I bring it up, someone sighs and says, “Not again!”
Lets face it, folks: we live in a very politically correct environment. We try not to use labels of “black” and “white.” No one with an extremely radical viewpoint is ever heard from again, if they are even brave enough to speak out the first time. So, this is not an outdated, over-discussed, has-been topic. Until we can talk about a topic without fear of what everyone else is going to think and without a second thought about bringing up something too sensitive, we’ve not fully explored the issue, and it is still a barrier to honest communication.
Now we’ll get back to where we started: why introduce race? There is no doubt that diversity encompasses more than this one narrow issue. Class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, athletic involvement, et cetera all play a valuable role in diversifying our community. We chose race as a framework of this project, because it is something that you see every time you look in the mirror. It generally cannot be hidden, and if it is, that masking is probably deliberate. We’ve also brought it up as a direct response to the obvious silence on the issue. When race is considered at all, it’s generally in the context of a Minority Coalition group having a forum. Why is it seen as the responsibility of the non-white population to bring up race?
We are now asking everyone to introduce race into his/her own self-reflection in order to examine the role it has played in shaping identity. If you reflect and find that race is an outdated category that has no bearing on your life, tell us about it. If race has entirely shaped your personal environment, tell us that, too. We are not making judgments about the role race should play, only inquiring as to what role it has played.
Introduce Race is an attempt to bring discussions of racial identity out into the open. We should not be afraid to share our thoughts with one another. The project is not designed to be divisive and accusing, we hope to increase a culture of understanding and communication.
Our goal may seem a little warm and fuzzy, but we don’t want this just to become a lovefest of multiculturalism that loses the aspect of dissent and individuality. This is why you have the option of anonymity, the possibility to say whatever you feel. The published anthology coming from this project will serve as a record of the wealth and variety of experiences that help compose the Williams world. Honest and active participation will ensure the accuracy and completeness of this account.
We have a chance to educate one another and to learn. It’s not about blame; it’s not about forcing anyone to do anything. Introduce Race is an opportunity that we hope will benefit this place we all inhabit for a brief span of time, and maybe even beyond our time here and beyond the purple valley. Why race? It is where we begin.