An Open Letter to the White Community

This letter was written in regards to a previous letter called “An Open Letter to the AHANA Community.” The piece calls for greater openness within the AHANA community and encourages reaching out to the White community, and vice versa.  As White members of FACES, the only antiracist organization at Boston College, we want to elaborate on the ways the White community can address issues of race on campus.  We also want to address what questions White students can ask themselves to better understand their responsibility in improving the racial climate at BC.

Too often, the responsibility of bridging racial divisions falls on the AHANA community. Conversations about these racial divisions and misunderstandings inevitably lead students to blame culture clubs, deeming them too exclusive, and angrily question the need for required courses at BC that deal with issues of race, among other statements that most of us have heard.  All of these arguments strive to ignore the uncomfortable topic of race and place the responsibility onto someone else.  The question less often asked is what the role of White students is on this campus in addressing race and understanding the need for these conversations.  Culture clubs may not have many White members.  However, other organizations on campus, especially clubs that celebrate White ethnicities, many service organizations, and finance organizations are almost never questioned for their predominantly White racial membership.  Why do these questions go unasked while the other questions are constantly present in our dialogue at BC?

We do not intend to say that no one in the White community works to improve the racial climate at BC.  It is absolutely important to recognize that a number of White students at Boston College are making efforts to bridge racial barriers and create a truly open and more understanding community.  Yet, one look at the racial segregation in BC housing that tends to happen after freshman year tells us that more of this needs to happen.  Further, it is not only student-to-student interactions that are problematic, but trends in inequity on the larger scale that are often harder to see. Racial tension and division at BC are certainly seen in divided dining halls, overheard in casual racial slurs peppered throughout conversations, and felt in the explosions that occur over these issues every few years.  But to stop there is to miss a crucial aspect of the way that racism operates on this ‘larger scale,’ here and elsewhere. AHANA faculty and administration make up just 16 percent of the total at BC.  There are no institutionally required courses that focus primarily on racism and privilege, meaning we can potentially graduate without ever having discussed racism in depth in the classroom (the cultural diversity core does not count as talking about racism).  Most of us know every detail of the alcohol matrix, yet would be at a loss if asked how to report hate crimes, which do occur.  Possibly most alarming is that according to the American Council on Education, just 7 percent of BC’s tenure-line professors are black or Hispanic.  What does all of this mean for every member of the Boston College Community?  It means that in becoming “Men and Women for Others” our growth is stunted by lacking the tools and the knowledge to have productive dialogue about race.  As White students, we cannot discuss race effectively without first understanding what it has meant in our lives to be White.

We are not looking to criticize our peers but rather to encourage a renewed and sustained commitment to challenging racial inequality and division in the White community. We challenge not just White students in general, but especially those who are the leaders of clubs, in athletics and in other BC organizations to step up and show your peers that racial justice is not an AHANA issue, it is a BC issue.

By Gabrielle Acierno, A&S ‘11, Riley Collins, A&S ‘12, Leigh Purcell, A&S ‘13, Lauren Zajac, A&S ‘12

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