The fractured community of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans exposed the true consequences of apathy and indifference. The U.S. government waited four days after the city was flooded to send the National Guard to aid the residents of this majority black city. Some residents are still living in FEMA trailers. Now, it is two-and-a-half years later and my uncle does not know if his flood insurance will ultimately go through. When we allow such fracturing of the community to go unattended the community suffers.
Similarly, the racial slurs that were broadcast to the Williams community two weekends ago, as well as many other undocumented testimonies of racism, expose the Williams community to a serious issue it often chooses not to treat as a serious issue. I ask the question: to what social standards are we as a community holding each other accountable? Is it okay to be a balanced, intelligent and committed Williams student only 99 percent of the time? Should a person be pardoned when some inappropriate word comes flying out of their mouth while drunk late at night? Is it okay to remain indifferent if a racial slur is spouted and no one within earshot expresses discomfort? If apathy and indifference is the response then we are tolerating and excusing racism and discrimination.
Right now the community of New Orleans is regaining momentum. Mardis Gras last week brought together the most soul food and neighbors since August 2005. Though many neighborhoods remain abandoned, the spirit on St. Charles St. highlighted that maybe the city is finding its resilient and celebratory culture again. Perhaps we as a Williams community can learn from the Mardis Gras celebration in New Orleans and come together this week to end apathy and indifference to hateful remarks and institutional racism. We must decide together to hold each other accountable at every moment. Like the people, jazz artists, Creole chefs and uniting of large families that characterize the moment of Mardi Gras, so too can we as the people of Williams College find strength as a small person-to-person institution. So, person-to-person, we stand for the just and accountable community we want.
Jared Oubre ’08