I write this in the hope that there is a similar dialogue going on at other ‘Cac campuses.
As a Sociology major, I take classes that theorize virtually every aspect of our society. One of my favorite classes is Making Social Change Happen. While it does sound extremely vague and abstract there are time-tested ways to create community organizations and create actual social change. We, as most college students, are completely aware of the increase in social activism across our nation with the Occupy Movement. This movement has many strengths and weaknesses. It has utilized all that social media has to offer and has mobilized a variety of people. However their lack of inclusive language and vague goals seem to be a major barricade for their participants.
However, this is not what got me going today in class. We began to explore other tactics and strategies in getting what you want out of social change. One student brought up April Open House last year and the Race Dialogue/Demonstration that occurred during the activities fair portion. A group of students (of a variety of backgrounds and races) wore shirts instructing prospective students and their parents to “Ask Me About White Privilege at Tufts’” or “Ask Me About Being Student of Color at Tufts.” The student noted how this was extremely effective because it makes school officials extremely aware of the immediacy and urgency of improved race relations on campus. From my understanding this group is the same coalition petitioning the school for an Africana Studies department, with other racial/ethnic studies departments. While their effort was valiant and unarguably admirable and bold, we also had some of the lowest numbers of students of color come to Tufts this year. While we in no way are an evenly split school, liberal arts schools tend to be some of the most diverse in the Northeast. How effective, then, are the efforts?
A big argument against ethnic studies departments is the “lack of interest.” That line may be a load a crock but consider the backlash to a demonstration like the one at AOH. If there is a lack of students of color in attendance, who are gonna take classes? Students are looking for a school environment that can validate or solidify aspects of their identity. If Tufts, or any school, is presented as a toxic place for people of color, who is gonna be here to take those classes? You are setting yourself up to be shut down. It is cutting off your nose despite your face. In our fight for more racial and ethnic inclusion we cannot isolate potential supporters by categorizing our schools as racially toxic places.