Elise’s Reflective Essay

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Prior to coming to Trinity, I had never really thought about my relationship with race and social class. I grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which is an almost entirely homogenous town on the North Shore. Nearly everyone is white, and there is minimal class diversity. As a result, I felt comfortably average, but I was also blind to the bigger picture of racial and social class relations. Trinity can be similar to Newburyport in many ways: despite it’s 20% diversity rate, the population is still largely white, and many students are quite affluent. I think taking the Color and Money seminar has been one of the best things to happen to me at Trinity thus far. It has opened my eyes to the way the world really is, rather than simply allowing me to view the school through a metaphorical pair of rose-tinted glasses.

If I were to self-analyze based on Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, I think I entered Trinity at the contact stage. I fit her description of living in a homogenous neighborhood, and I had never deeply thought about my race, beyond the ever-present joke in my hometown about how white our town is. I think I fit perfectly into Tatum’s contact stage, because I never saw racism around me and felt I was free of prejudice (Tatum 95). Coming to Trinity was one of the first times I was exposed to a lot of diversity. One of my roommates is Dominican and an active part of Posse and LVL on campus, so getting to know her and listening to her stories have really opened my eyes. I learned that this is the benefit of having more diversity: if you’re willing to look and listen, there are a lot of interesting stories to hear.

The interesting and, as far as I can tell, unique thing about our seminar is how relevant it is. I have frequently spoken to my friends who are not in Color and Money about our class, and I can almost hear the envy in their voices. No other seminar (as far as I know) has sparked as much discussion and debate as ours. None of my friends even discuss their seminars outside of class, let alone take what they learn in their seminar and apply it to their lives. For our seminar, however, this discussion is crucial.

At the end of the semester, we read Adolfo Abreu’s open letter to the Trinity community that gave his thoughts on race relations at Trinity as well as with the surrounding Hartford neighborhood. This letter sparked one of our most heated in-class debates yet. Over the course of the semester each student in Color and Money came further out of their shell, so it was no surprise that people starting vocalizing their real thoughts in this final debate. I spent most of class just listening, and one point really stuck out to me. Part of Abreu’s letter was titled “The Objectification of Women of Color”, which discussed how objectified and judged the female population can be (Abreu). One white girl in our class spoke up and said that she felt the experiences Abreu cited were common to all women, and I agreed with her, but it soon became clear that this was not the case. The two African-American girls in our class, Jasmine and Briana, then spoke up and gave a very powerful testimony about how women of color “lose every time” and that “white women are untouchable”. The class only talked about it for a short time, but what they said stuck with me for the rest of the week.

In our final seminar class, I brought up how moved I was by this point, and I am so glad I did. After class, Jasmine and Briana came up to me and told me how grateful they were that I had spoken up. This launched a very intelligent and intense discussion for the next few hours outside of class about race and social class and our own opinions. We got lunch, we talked, we laughed, and we were open-minded and excited to hear each other’s stories. I can honestly say this was the first real-world discussion about race I have ever had.

In retrospect, I think this discussion was unimaginably important simply because we kept the conversation going outside the classroom. People can talk until they are hoarse in class, but as influential as Color and Money was, it was still a class. We were put in a room and told to discuss these issues, but bridging the gap between class and life is harder. It’s hard to force these kinds of intellectual discussions, and prior to taking Color and Money I wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic to talk about my views on race. I never even had an opportunity to talk openly with people from different backgrounds. I now have the confidence, knowledge, and desire to keep having conversations like the one I had with Jasmine and Briana.

This kind of dialogue is the only way to break down race barriers and move into a less race-conscious world. If the white kids continue to sit with the white kids and the black kids do the same, people will only ever get one side of the story and the gap will continue to widen. While I alone cannot change the world, and one meaningful conversation will not reform race-relations at Trinity, I am still a piece of the puzzle. If I can have a perspective-altering experience, anyone can, and the more people who are educated and aware, the more likely we are to create meaningful change.

Works Cited

Provost, Kerri. “Trinity Student Offers Suggestions for Bridging Town-Gown Chasm,” Real Hartford, November 26, 2013,

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race. New York: Basic, 1997. Print.