Written by Vickie Valadez
This morning, on the day that I intended to write this story about dominant Eurocentricity on campus, I woke up with Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” playing in my head.
Not really related to the subject matter at all, but I thought it would serve a good introduction;
Isn’t it ironic that we support multiculturalism, but still the vast majority of students and faculty here are white?
Isn’t it ironic that we embrace diversity, but most of the artistic events on-campus were made by white people and/or have a white audience in mind?
I can’t help but ask myself these questions when I see events like etiquette dinner, most of the Cove and FNL events, The Country Wife and many other theatrical productions (at least those from this and last year). There are obviously attempts to break this pattern, with performances from Overlord, Locos por Juana and probably others. I am not trying to blame any of these organizations or departments, as I personally know and respect people from all of them. But it’s important for me to point out these observations.
I can guess what you’re thinking. Oh no, not race talk again. We’ve already gone over this. I know I’m bringing out skeletons from the closet. We all had this talk last year in the discussion groups, and since we’ve talked it all out it should be better now.
What was wrong about these groups was that we were not prepared in any way to discuss race. I know a lot of people left feeling disappointed. I think I know why; we’re all too afraid to offend one another. We’re afraid to express our naivety and ignorance, because we’re educated and not supposed to be ignorant. We’re too afraid to even acknowledge difference, as if it’s not really important and we are all treated equally.
I would like to make a few points clear:
First, racism is NOT over. It never ended at any point. I just wanted to eliminate that thought that may be lingering in anybody’s mind. I mostly say it because of dumb advertising for news stations covering the Jena 6 as if it is an isolated incident, as if racism had died and now come back from the grave, hungry for more oppression. No. Racism never went away. The fact that it is regarded as such shows how ingrained it is in our society; that it can perpetuate without us even noticing its existence until a very blatant act occurs.
Second, not everyone is treated as equal. We are in a society that favors some people over other for very specific attributes. Those that are not favored have felt the repercussions of an oppressive society. Think about it; they probably want those pains understood by others, and that means acknowledging difference in the first place.
Third, education does not necessarily equal understanding. I’ve heard very educated people say very ignorant things. Education should expand our understanding, but such is not always the case. I, for example, would not be writing this article were it not for the fact that I am a Communications major and content about race/gender/class/orientation/ability/etc. has been drilled into my head. You’ve probably learned something about the diversity spectrum too, assuming that you are a student at our fine liberal arts university. But you and I can choose to take other classes, or simply not subscribe to the information that widens our understanding. At the least, we can still be ignorant because we are all at least middle-class, likely upper class, because we (or should I say our families?) can afford the tuition here. We likely do not understand what it feels like to eat aging food or otherwise go hungry (no, the Commons doesn’t count).
Lastly, it’s okay to offend/be offended if it is for a good purpose. One of good things that did come out of the discussions was the point that we are all racist and prejudiced. I didn’t point out all those specific examples of performances and events to lay blame on any particular people. Ignorance is everyone’s problem, whether or not you perpetuate it. It is something always present in our society and we should be aware of it, in order to attempt any change. From what I have learned, the only way we will overcome ignorance is to openly talk about and learn of the experiences of the less privileged. If this discussion is to be useful, some people