Moving beyond bare minimum

The present debate on campus diversity is flawed. The question, “should we admit someone because they have black skin?” forces the debate to be about skin color, and completely ignores the idea of race. Skin color by itself cannot separate one person fundamentally from another. There is much more to being part of the “black race” than simply having black skin. To be black is to share a culture, a history and even a language that members of other races do not share.

If we define race in such a manner, then we can certainly say that making an effort to admit black students (or members of other races) will help us to attain the common goal of diversity, which is to receive an education in a venue where we are forced to live, work with and learn from people who are different than us.

This goal is perfectly acceptable. But Williams should be better than acceptable. We should be the best. It is not enough to be living amongst people of other races. Aside from being “forced” to live and work with different people, we should all be choosing to get to know each other. The kind of color-blindness we need is the kind where everyone gets to know each other, regardless of any differences. Some would argue that the campus needs color-blindness because “color” does not mean anything. That is not being color-blind, that is being blind.

Everyone knows there are “black tables” in Baxter. Everyone knows the black students hang out in Baxter Lounge. Everyone knows that almost everyone who attends a Black History Month event is black. It is time to open our eyes and look at the real problems with diversity on campus. We can talk all we want about admissions statistics, but if the majority of students are segregating themselves (let us make it clear that we blame everyone) on campus, then the diversity of accepted students is a moot point. By debating acceptance rates and by defining what it means to be part of the “minority” we ignore the challenge of how to make all of us interact with one another.

This argument will, no doubt, be denounced as social engineering by those who believe liberty and isolation to be related. But we are not telling you who to be friends with. We are simply saying that it is time to think about the true definition of diversity.

Diversity obviously does not mean simply going to school with people who are different. Too often diversity is confused with tolerance. We are not accusing anyone of being intolerant, but being socially diverse goes far beyond a tolerance of those who are different: it means actively pursuing relationships with such people.

We are not claiming that it is wrong to possess stronger ties to the culture you come from. We are just calling on all people to be open to multiple social experiences instead of isolating themselves in one social setting for four years. Whether you think race has no effect on diversity or makes all the difference in the world, we ask: how do you know?

Stop talking about statistics. Stop talking about life skills. Stop talking about history. In short, stop talking and start making a sincere effort to get to know all the great people on this campus. Once we all make this effort, we will be moving beyond an accepted bare minimum of social interaction, towards a truly diverse community worthy of the Williams name. Before you call this tripe or trite, think about it. It is not a clichéd vision. It is a practical one.