Emersonians wrong about race

by Beacon Staff • April 19, 2006

At the beginning of the school year, I sat uncomfortably in my classes when the subjects of race and diversity at Emerson came up. This wasn't because I was angry at the statistical lack of racial diversity here or because I felt like no one was accounting for the "variety" that our school does feature.

Rather, I was uncomfortable because I have never been surrounded by so many people with defensive rhetorical views on the subject of race.

"Diversity is not only race," an opinion article that ran in The Beacon two weeks ago, is unfortunately a prime example of the insensitive, self-appointed authority that is so prevalent in environments of privilege.

"[The author's] type of opinion about diversity is a very common opinion at Emerson, but the problem is that it's always stated by people who don't do anything about it," said Anna Sumilat, a senior music production and social marketing double major.

In her piece, the writer criticizes the very idea of Campus Conversations on Race. She implies that they are not necessary.

As someone who has participated in the program, I can say they are. Emerson students talk international politics all day long, they're ironic about gender construction and they love to examine little idiosyncrasies that distinguish them from the next kid with green hair. They have not been taught, however, to contextualize themselves in a socio-political situation.

Some of our peers still do not realize our own perceptions and privileges are contributing to a larger scenario that, were we to be made aware of it, might make us shudder.

That's the luxury of true indifference. It is easy to analyze from the safety of periphery.

College should not simply be about the intellectual consumerist value of sharing ideas.

I don't pay tuition to share ideas. I came here for professional training and to closely investigate what I have to offer through working with others.

In order to do that, I need to understand my own perceptions and beliefs and how they contribute or detract from a dynamic learning community. I also need a variety of other people doing the same thing.

Those are the conditions from which true innovation is developed. It is called a community.

"Although [dealing with] race is something that can potentially divide a community, it's also something that [if confronted and discussed] can unite a community," said Jeff Dorsey, a sophomore film major. "By ignoring issues of race, we're only widening racial divides."

Racial diversity is not simply a color scheme that will liven our study of journalism, theatre and marketing. It is a key component that Emerson is missing in its educative community.

While the author of The Beacon article in question is right in saying that "the way a person looks influences his or her viewpoint," she fails to mention the way a person looks influences everybody's viewpoints. Race is a social construction, and a very strong one at that. Acknowledging that fact does not undo the lack of interracial understanding in our society.

But if people can find the bravery to pair their intellectual and professional pursuits with personal inquiry, we will start moving in the right direction.

There is a widespread attitude of superiority at Emerson College that paralyzes our community and prevents growth. This attitude seems much more likely to occur in someone when they are white and economically privileged.

This is the lack of diversity we need to be talking about instead of dancing around the "controversy of it all."

That's what takes real work.