Friday, February 22, 2019

White People, Speak Up.

HUNTER SAVERY ’20

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Racism is the problem we all live with. In the post-Obama era, the veil has been lifted revealing with grotesque horror the deep divisions remaining in our country. It is not hard to see racism in the white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville last summer, or the Trump administration’s policies regarding immigrant families coming though our southern border. The hatred exhibited there, and elsewhere, is deplorable.  What is more troubling, and less often discussed, is the silence of the majority of white America. When outcry is heard, it seems to come solely from people of color and left-leaning political activists. White people, admittedly my own people, seem to take on little responsibility in combatting an evil that has dogged this nation from its inception. The mainstay of the Trinity College student body, unfortunately, follows this trend of silence in the face of bigotry.

Recently, a screenshot has been making the rounds on social media of a comment made by a white male Trinity student referring to a group in a photo as a “Buncha f*cking n*ggers”. The race of the people in the post where the comment appeared is unclear, though it bears little relevance as the language is unacceptable and disgusting in either instance. The comment and the poster have since dropped off social media since it first appeared around August 22nd, and it would be easy to miss this heinous display, if it were not for those screenshots that have been reposted across social media or, without following people that aren’t white. It is good that people are calling out this act of casual racism. Unfortunately, there is a clear line between who is willing to stand up and who is not, and it breaks down, where else ,but along racial lines. The ability of students, and of society at large, to reject racism is hamstrung if white people are unwilling to speak out against racism. It is important to fight bigotry everywhere it springs up, not just when Nazis have a parade. If a white man feels comfortable posting the n-word online for all to see, and if a white woman feels good threatening presumably hispanic workers at a drive-thru with the charming phrase: “We’re Americans and we can f*cking kill you!”, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed by people other than the victims. The drive-thru incident was posted on the Trinity Barstool Instagram page on June 19th and taken down shortly thereafter. Unfortunately the initial posters thought it was funny enough to share with the world and too many people agreed. Backlash followed, but again was dominated by people of color. White Americans too often act as though their responsibility to end racism stopped with the Civil Rights Act. The racial divisions in America did not end with the election of President Obama and white liberals patting themselves on the back. Trinity College seems to be perfect microcosm of this phenomenon. White Bantams are not categorically racist, at least not actively prejudiced, but if our community agrees that racism is evil, why are so few willing to do anything about it?

Trinity’s race problems have not ended through a more diverse student body alone. When white students are permitted to make racist comments without repercussion, the problem will never be solved. This is not to say that free speech should be restricted, or that students should be punished by there administration for their words or beliefs, but the administration and the student body must unequivocally reject this pattern of behavior. It is indeed a pattern, from snowballs hurled at a Dominican flag last winter, to threats to drive-thru workers recorded and posted online as something to be laughed at, to the countless acts of casual racism that go unreported and unprotested ‘neath the elms. These incidents cannot be seen as existing in a vacuum. Whether said as a joke or with genuine malice, hateful language is always unacceptable. Trinity’s culture is broken, and it cannot be healed until white students stand up to racism, including the “little r” racism of stupid comments from the less enlightened members of our community.

The administration need not infringe on the free speech of students, racist or otherwise, to address prejudice on campus. Greater efforts need to be made to create dialogue between students from different backgrounds. If this means attending compulsory discussions about race and prejudice on campus, that would not be a bad start. It is not the sole responsibility of the administration to combat a toxic culture, though. Students of all backgrounds need to speak up, but it needs to be white students for once. If racism is evil, we should have no issue with rejecting it in public. It is a shame that most white students at Trinity continue to lack the courage to denounce hate. Hopefully, there will not be another incident like this most recent one, or the one before that, but if and when there is, there better be white people calling out bad behavior. It is not enough to not hold racist beliefs.  Silence in the face of scandal is tacit approval for racists, and incidents like this one will continue. So, speak up and do the right thing.

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