While Whitworth aims to be an inclusive community, the friendly demeanor of the university impedes this goal especially when it comes to addressing racial tensions and issues on campus.
When students of color talk about their experiences on campus, often times others claim that race has nothing to do with it. Students across campuses like University of Washington and Duke University stood in solidarity with the student movement of the University of Missouri after students of color at Missouri spoke out about a long history of racism on campus. What is happening at Missouri is similar to what is happening at Whitworth, on a much smaller scale.
Most people aren’t racist. Most students at Whitworth wouldn’t blatantly express hate for a certain racial group on campus. Yet, the way that some students dismiss the experiences of students of color is itself a form of racism. In today’s age, racism does not always manifest itself in overt ways but that does not mean that it no longer exists.
An employer at a clothing store who follows a person of color as they shop because they are suspicious that they might steal something does not necessarily hold a prejudice toward people of color. However, the images of people of color as criminals that the employee has seen in film, television and news contributes to the bias of said employee. This type of discrimination may not seem like the type of racism we are used to seeing: loud and violent. However, small experiences, or microaggressions, that people of color deal with on a daily basis contribute to a system of racism in our country.
The Whitworth community may be uncomfortable hearing about the discrimination that students of color face not only in our community but outside of it as well. Silencing students of color when they speak about how it feels to be a student of color on a predominantly white campus invalidates their stories and adds to the marginalization that some students of color feel on campuses including Whitworth.
These thoughts are not my own but rather a collection of the thoughts that I’ve heard many students of color communicate at Whitworth. None of these students are ill-intentioned when speaking about their experiences. There is not an “us” against “them” mentality. Rather, sharing these experiences with others helps some students of color feel like they have a voice that is being heard.