A student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
As a first year William Smith student of South Asian background, the sheer whiteness on campus was a shock to me. Think about your reaction of ordering a chocolate cake with rainbow icing and instead receiving a vanilla cake with vanilla icing. Exactly.
The truth is that if you are not an athlete or white on this campus, there is very little done to help you feel comfortable here. So many of my peers come here because of their generous financial aid packages and the projected diversity. It quickly became clear to me that the students of color here are photographed and put onto the website so that they can advertise themselves as “diverse”. The school vocalizes the idea that there is a problem with the lack of diversity here and yet do very little to actually act on it. There is such a small support system for the students of color or international students here. Being close to having a woman as the president of the colleges or a non-white administrator does not mean that this campus has maintained equality. Taking a history of anti-black sentiment on campus out of the yearbooks doesn’t erase it. How am I supposed to feel comfortable in a place that simultaneously ignores and tokenizes my very existence?
The only bright side to the lack of diversity on this campus was that it was made easier to bond with the students of color here. When there are so few of us, it becomes that much more important to have a space for students of color. The role of cultural clubs is made even more important. However, that is not to say that there isn’t work to be done within these clubs themselves. We are far from being a perfect representation of our culture and in educating people on it. As we ignore our very own privilege even as students of color, we are imperfect in our interactions with and treatment of other students of color here.
It becomes alarmingly clear, that being a POC on this campus makes it so your culture is an attribute that you must continuously advertise rather than have it be. How many students reading this, who are non-POC are asked to share their “experiences from home”? Or speak on the behalf of thousands of people that look like them due to existing as the one brown person in the vicinity? I apologize, Stevenson, that I can’t speak for an entire ethnicity, nationality, or gender because you want clarity on what you stumbled upon in the NYT involving someone brown.
So many people in my classes have decided that they want to be so accepting and impartial that they simply do not have an opinion on genocide, mass murder, or ethnic cleansing. Apparently after watching a graphic movie or reading a graphic novel or just watching the news was not enough for them to form an opinionated view. I, personally, would rather not sit in religion or politics classes where there is an active denial of humanity to anyone who is not white, a man, or a very specific sect of Christianity. I respect differences in opinion but I do not respect an unwillingness to learn.
Before I came to school, my sister joked with me that I would become white washed in my four years here and sat me down to tell me what I shouldn’t do. I pretty much ignored all of that advice the second that I got here. I was not going to minimize myself so that I people who this campus was made for can feel more comfortable. Unfortunately for people on my floor that means hearing music in another language being blasted on the weekends.