Last week, the Occidental community saw how far we still are from understanding racial equality on campus. An attempt by two Occidental students to host an “End of the World” party, playing off of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, ISIS-related violence in the Middle East and the Malaysian Airlines incidents, resulted in immediate and overwhelming condemnation from both students and administrators. Conversations about racism and ignorance took center stage in campus dialogue.
But for many, worries about racism will eventually take a back seat to anxiety over school, friends and family. For some, the pain caused by institutionalized racism will continue to be actively felt, even when the current controversy fades into the past. This reality was made clear at a meeting last Friday between students and administrators, in which students of color shared stories of the microaggressions and feelings of isolation they experience on a daily basis.
Such stories are not easy to hear and cast doubt on the school’s claims of high standards for diversity and equity. But if we want to dismantle racism on our campus, we first have to acknowledge the extent to which it exists. Learning about the experiences of marginalized students and understanding issues of race and discrimination is the first step. Students may not hold a common opinion of last week’s events, but they do share the responsibility of listening to their peers and working to help them. Attending educational events and community conversations on diversity is one of the easiest ways to do this.
These kinds of conversations happen frequently, but they rarely have the attendance they should. At last week’s panel on the fetishization of minority groups, one panelist noticed how events of this kind attract the same group of people—namely, people of color. The vast majority of Occidental students are nowhere to be seen at this type of event.
Conversations on diversity are not there just for the organizations that host them—they are there to improve the climate of the campus as a whole. But for that to work, students need to show up. Students who do not face daily prejudice should take it upon themselves to look past their discomfort and expose themselves to these conversations. Without this display of solidarity, there is little hope for finding a shared solution to our current problems.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.