It’s time to refocus on racial equity
By Defensor Santiago
In the past several months, student protest forced the administration to reconsider the ways that we as a community discuss and tackle the issues of racism that infect our classrooms, dorm rooms, offices, internships, and student spaces.
Since then there has been a hopeful change in our community, one that seemed like a strong beginning to a long road in changing the ways in which we relate to one another. With that being said, the past community meeting on April 12 was a big misstep in this progression, as it brought us back to the toxic language and thinking that so plagued our community in the very first community meeting which took place in November.
I write this article not to efface all of the great work that our students and administration have partaken in, but to hold our President accountable to her promise to meet the demands, and our college’s mission of providing transformative learning that links passion with lifelong purpose.
It is also to hold her to our core values of putting students first, preparing students for life’s work, crossing boundaries to create opportunities, and making a collective investment to our community. This is also to reach the administration in a way that they have requested—absent of anger and in language that they can understand.
This meeting was an utter disappointment, especially because the meetings prior seemed to be so promising, as it looked like we were finally finding ways for students of color to be heard, and this was the antithesis of that progress. It invalidated the knowledge that people of color have about racism in their own lives and in the lives of their community by claiming that a earning a PhD would allow a white person to know these experiences better than a person of color. This is a pitfall in academia absolute trust of because it allows us to remain uncritical of how a (presumably white) PhD would gain that knowledge in the first place, particularly because they often utilize and exploit the knowledge of people of color in order to write their books and dissertations.
The erasing of these stories also comes at a cost to the community we are building. President Drinan’s inability to listen meaningfully and attentively to the issues of power that were being discussed and explained by students of color, becomes costly for us. It costs us time in building forms of recourse to address issues of inequality in the classroom, especially when there is a marked power differential between a student, who is being graded, and the professor who is doing the grading.
While President Drinan is right in saying “It’s your right to say no,” this ignores a long and ongoing history of whiteness robbing people of color of their rights. In addition, President Drinan should know how important having systems in place to investigate abuses are from her trailblazing and important work as the Head of Human Resources for the Bank of Boston. She should give her students the same trust that she gave those women when they came forward about the harassment they were facing, as their experiences were doubted just as those of our students of color are being today.
It is my hope that in reading this, we as a community can get back on track to becoming as racially equitable as I know that we can be.