Almost no Colorado College students are going to speak in favor of the hateful, racist, white supremacist email sent over Spring Break. Undoubtedly, it was disgusting and sad. It is sad that any person in any community has a mind like that in 2018, and it is sad that many people, even if they might not be on this campus still share that mindset.
As a white student from a predominately white suburb, I obviously cannot bring the same perspective to this issue as a student of color. I can only speak my truth, which is that these emails are appalling. While this is my personal truth, it is also part of the larger issue. I think many of my peers share my belief, yet where does a belief get us?
My personal thoughts do not really do anything in the long run. Perhaps they make me feel better about myself, as I do not classify myself as a discriminatory or racist individual, but, still, that does not benefit anyone.
Emails like these serve as a bit of a wake-up call. By no means am I stating that I think these emails benefited our campus in any manner whatsoever; I am simply stating that they made me more cognizant of the fact that if I am not actively aiding in prohibiting the problem, then I am part of the problem.
Additionally, some acts of racism may be justified far too often. Growing up, I often worked as a babysitter. Living in a predominately white suburb, the kids I babysat were white. There was an instance in which I took the kids out to dinner and they imitated the accents of some servers presenting us with food. They also made derogatory comments about a boy in their grade who looked different than them. I would tell them calmly that what they were saying and doing was not acceptable—that it was racist. However, their actions did not strike me as incredibly problematic. I would tell myself that they were young, and that they simply did not know any better.
The same phenomenon has happened with older folks I have been around. I have heard them make sweeping comments that classify black people as one stereotype. How am I to argue with the 80-year-old woman when she tells me she feels safer in all-white environments? Our grandparents grew up in a different generation. When they were kids, statements like this were normalized. There’s the problem—I justify the young boy saying rude comments, as he is young; but then I justify the old person for saying rude comments, because she is old.
With this flawed logic, it appears that everyone is slightly justified to say racist things. My solution to both of these problems is not to aggressively yell at the 12-year-old boy and 80-year-old grandma, but is to acknowledge that they each have their own issues. After I acknowledge that, I must figure out a way to open a dialogue with these people and make them realize that what they are saying is racist.
Again, I know that my perspective cannot cover this issue in a way that the individuals targeted, or individuals who could have been targeted simply due to the color of their skin, would be able to. Still, I need to take more action. In my daily life, I need to be more aware of the small things and micro-aggressions that people say, the words that are spoken in opposition to the beliefs I profess to hold, and I suggest that the rest of our community try to do the same.
It could be the accumulation of small, ignored comments that allowed a person to believe that these emails held validity. No act of racism should ever be justified despite age, despite geography, despite upbringing. If someone holds a belief that counters my own, I need to make my voice heard. Obviously this is not a fix-all solution to racism. However, these are things I am going to be more conscious of in my daily life, for if I am not, I am simply part of the problem.