Evergreen State College - Racial Tension and Threats of Violence
Of late, my news feed is full of political intrigue - hackers, leakers, Russian influence and questions about (who knew and did what in) the current White House Administration. If only I knew how to reset my RSS feed criteria, I could block more of these stories! It's a wonder anything else manages to get through. Thankfully this one did.
The story of Evergreen State College is one that I am just learning about and will continue to follow with much interest. If you are unfamiliar with this one, let me bring you up to speed. Racial tensions have been bubbling up on the campus for some time, culminating in student protests for the past few days. In response to the tension, school officials suggested that white people consider avoiding campus on a particular day set aside for discussions about race. One of the professors objected to this course of action via private email communication. His position on the issue was made public, and subsequently, students called him racist and angrily demanded that he be fired. The demonstrations continued. After an anonymous threat of violence, the school was closed for a day.
As a person of color, I am saddened to hear yet another story of racial conflict, questionable community engagement and policing practices. All of which are valid complaints that are being highlighted by the demonstrators. And, I understand the wellspring of anger many people are dealing with in our communities.
However, we have to stop calling for the dismissal of others that do not share our opinions. If we want to have an honest dialogue about race in this country, then it is imperative that we move beyond emotional responses to the positions and people whose views are counter to ours. Frankly, this is what we all - regardless of color - need to do.
Right now it seems that a lot of people in this country are digging in their collective heels, shouting about their position and unwilling to consider that the world is much more nuanced than a "you're with me or against me" mentality allows. I personally do not want to live in a world with people that only think the way I do. I want to hear from people whose opinions are different from my own on mundane as well as controversial issues. If nothing else, doing so will allow me to broaden my understanding of the many viewpoints that are out there. And, if there is any one place that I would expect that diversity of thought to be present and encouraged, it is on a college campus.
Often, the comments we make as people of color is that white people (not all but some) just don't get it. They don't see or can't relate to what is happening within our communities. And, there's a genuine frustration that comes from it. But keep the lines of communication open in an effort to bridge the gap between yourself and others because we're all going to continue to occupy this space - together. The issues being raised by these young demonstrators are worth discussing and definitely need fixing so let's not get distracted by side notes (i.e., firing this one or that one) that take away from the strength of the message. Differences in opinion will occur. Expect it. Remember Colin Kaepernick, former 49ers quarterback, who decided to kneel instead of stand for the national anthem? The attention given to Kaepernick's action became the focal point for media, celebrities, and everyday citizens. The message of why he was doing what he was doing was reduced to a side note. Stay on message. Don't be deterred by differences in opinion.
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