Immanuel Adeola ’14
We all have heard, in some shape or form, the idea that the purpose of every college institution is to foster learning and intellectual growth. We are all aware of the fact that learning can take place anywhere. A Monday afternoon at the Underground, a Tuesday evening in the dorm common room, or even a Thursday evening at the Tap are all potential centers to exchange ideas, learn from one another, and become better informed people. The most crucial kind of learning that we engage in is not the subjects we learn in the classroom, but what we can learn from each other. We all come from different backgrounds, with differing cultural and ideological views. The most well-known cultural difference that often gets the most attention on campus is that of race. Race is a sensitive topic. Many years of slavery and racial oppression have left an emotional scar not only on those who were its victims, but those who stood united with those victims in condemning such injustices. While the country has clearly moved on from the physical boundaries of race, it has found it difficult to move past the emotional and invisible boundaries.
The remarkable difference between the country and our college institution is that we are in a better position to bring down those invisible barriers. Everyone on this campus – students, professors, administrative staff and other employees, all believe that we are more than the color of our skin. We all understand that our various racial identities add on to the knowledge and experience we offer to the Trinity experience. Unfortunately, it is clear that there is some underlying racial tension on campus. I am fully aware that there are people who will argue that such tension does not exist, and that it is irresponsible to espouse such radical notions. However, the letter written by Professor Smith to the Charter Committee on Campus Climate, whether you agree with its contents or not, raises many critical questions about whether or not Greek life has institutionalized a certain way of life and has therefore polarized our campus into different racial groups as some have suggested. The main question to ask ourselves individually and as a community is: Do we have a race problem on our campus?
The simple answer to that question is no, we don’t. The problem we seem to have on our campus is one that mirrors the same problem we still have in our country, which is an over-awareness of race. I understand and appreciate that it is vital to be aware and even sensitive to each other’s race. However, maybe it is time that we change the nature of our rhetoric. We need to realize that we cannot change the past, and that the emotional scar left by slavery and racism will always be a constant reminder of the horror of that time period, but we must look to the future. We look to the future by opening ourselves to cultural growth on campus. The cultural houses have done a fantastic job of promoting awareness and bringing people to a better understanding of the similarities and differences between races and cultures on campus. However, such awareness must be relative to the pulse of the campus and not the general attitude of the nation. This means that our rhetoric must be focused on learning. Rhetoric that focuses on past shortcomings and racial prejudice only alienates when it is not placed in the greater context of learning or exchanging ideas that move us forward. I know that the majority of people who attend cultural events are those from that particular culture. I hope that this will change this year. We look to the future when we make it a duty to move out of our comfort zone. We look to the future when we challenge ourselves to talk to a person we wouldn’t necessarily talk to. We look to the future when we ask each other the right questions and provoke frank and respectful conversations rather than bottle up our misunderstandings or sweep them under the rug.
We often hear that we are “the future of tomorrow.” If that is so, the future of cultural and racial unity rests in our hands. We can galvanize the change that takes down those invisible barriers. We can inspire others to join us in looking to the future. However, we must begin on that journey with a positive vision for Trinity. This is even a step that can positively affect the image of the college. Widespread and honest exchanges about how we can improve ourselves and ultimately the country’s views on race would facilitate a stronger academic environment that many have stated is currently lacking on campus.