Race Discussions Should Not Wait for Major Incidents

After reading the opinion piece “Discuss Race Issues,” I thought I would take a stab at voicing my own opinion on race issues on the campuses because for some of us race never stops being “front page news.” Since some seem to believe that racial tension is unusually high at the moment I feel it is appropriate to point out how inherent racism is in the majority of us. What I have learned at the Claremont Colleges, Pitzer specifically, is that a lot of people claim not to be “racist,” but still discriminate based on race. Yes, it may sound like I am stating the obvious, but I am not talking about the stereotypical “some of my best friends are black/Hispanic/Asian/gay/lesbian/insert other demographic here” people. I am talking about the people who (considering today’s standards for being a racist) would never fall under the category of “racist” because being a racist and having racist tendencies are two different things. 

I am really annoyed that recent on-campus events have resulted in multiple forums and dining hall discussions. I am not annoyed that we are discussing race, but I am annoyed that only drastic events seem to spark our interest and bring race back to the “front page” when it is something that never goes away. Racism never goes away. Why is this? Because we do not realize that our smallest actions, our most seemingly insignificant sentences are often coated with a prejudice that some of us have suppressed, yet allowed to grow, for 18 years or more. Because instead of making the effort to decolonize our minds and actively remove racist undertones from our words and behaviors, we choose to claim ignorance of the weight of our habits. Don’t get me wrong, big issues such as the ones that have happened on campus recently should start discussion, but so should the small ones. 

The previous opinion piece on race mentioned that “[m]any white students feel uncomfortable sharing their views for fear of reprisal or backlash.” Well, if it makes you feel any better, you definitely are not alone. Sharing views about racism isn’t exactly easy for nonwhite students either. There is always the concern that if you mention race someone will reply with their belief that we now live in a colorblind society or that you will be pigeonholed as the token angry minority who always pulls the race card. And while we are on the subject of colorblindness, I would just like to put it out there that the idea of “colorblindness” in itself is a perfect example of how good intentions can become racist tendencies. If you claim that you do not see color then you have just insulted the people who do not have the privilege to ignore it. Becoming a completely inclusive society does not happen by ignoring difference, it happens by embracing it. 

I just want to conclude by saying that I in no way want to offend or attack anyone. The purpose of writing this piece was to bring awareness to our actions and our words. Don’t put race in the back of your mind just because it’s no longer front page news, and don’t be afraid to talk about race because you fear that your opinions will not be accepted or because you fear they will reflect poorly on you. Fear is the reason casual racism keeps happening, and it will continue to happen if we do not develop the courage not only to bring it out in the open, but also to educate ourselves and our communities so that it does not happen again. Be aware of your actions and your words. 

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