The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives courtesy of the Project for Open Voices. Today’s essay is titled “Race is Terrifying,” and was authored anonymously. POV is always accepting new submissions, so if you want to share your story, email email@example.com. If you would like to remain anonymous you can send us your response by signing into a second email account:firstname.lastname@example.org (password: kenyoncollege).
Race is terrifying. It’s an ever-present concept that many of us in liberal and politically correct environments such as Kenyon avoid at all circumstances, and I am certainly guilty of that. Diversity is not something that people are comfortable with. It’s great when we can use the idea to spark interest in prospective students by advertising it on colorful college pamphlets, but is this spiel of acceptance any more than just a gimmick? It feels as if race is even more of a taboo in diverse environments, because the idea of being politically correct stunts discussion and analysis. Sure, we have events such as MLK day to talk about race, but even those discussions only touch the surface. They are temporary: one quick day of addressing diversity and then we go back to pretending that racism is no longer an issue.
Growing up, I never thought I had a place in the race debate because race seemed, quite literally, black and white. As a Southeast Asian American, I was part of the silent gray space of the debate, and that doesn’t seem to have changed. I remember sitting in Peirce for lunch with other students of color recently and listening to people constantly refer to the table as “the black table,” ignoring the Latino, white, and Asian students sitting there. I remember going to the Activities Fair and noticing how exclusive the cultural clubs were, simply by their names: the Black Student Union, the Asian Culture Club, and several others. I remember the confused looks I got and continue to receive when I tell my friends that I’m going to the BSU meeting.
Kenyon is a generally liberal environment. We’d like to think we’re accepting of all; we are, compared to some colleges, diverse: promoters of feminism and LGBT rights. This belief in Kenyon as a liberal, accepting environment, however, detracts from an honest analysis, especially of concepts like race. It leaves the general population with a false sense of equality and minorities feeling silenced by this prevailing belief. It feels as if we’ve boxed away racism by taking diversity photos and creating cultural clubs, which sometimes further categorize races and promote division–a division that labels my participation in the BSU as strange. By boxing away these issues, we’ve failed to create a place to discuss the prevalence of racism and inequality still present at Kenyon. We’ve failed to provide an environment where ALL races can have a voice in the debate. By separating race and ignoring racism, we promote the acceptance of it. By ignoring any issue of inequality, and refusing to stand up and question it, we are creating a bubble of false diversity that leaves us at a standstill.