The other week I visited Fairfield University as a part of the Black Studies Program and the Black Lives Matter course, specifically. This is the first semester the course is being offered, and it’s absolutely critical that these issues are engaged in the classroom. The university approving such a course is at least a small demonstration by the administration of the legitimacy of Black Lives Matter (as a concept and as a movement).
My role was to chat with students relating to issues of allyship, white privilege, and cultural appropriation. As a white male in this space, I need to be mindful of my role and how I can be a good ally. It was so rewarding and productive to dialogue with students about how to navigate the undergraduate world when you’re dealing with everything from classes to social life to internships — all while being confronted with social justice issues that can’t go ignored.
We ended up talking a lot about a recent incident that happened at Fairfield. Apparently, the lacrosse team threw a “ghetto” themed party complete with fake chains and even blackface. Yes, blackface. But here’s where these conversations are so important. The students took me through their range of reactions and emotions, and eventually, we dove into what comes next. What can students do in situations such as this, where they feel like no one is willing to really address what happened?
These are some of the ideas/thoughts/concerns we talked through:
- Administrations are not going to make much progress without being pushed, so the conversation needs to be consistent.
- Organizing weekly or bi-weekly conversations around current issues related to identity, which would offer a space for students to talk about the issues that often get pushed aside.
- As crappy as the racist party was, take advantage of it as a catalyst to get the campus talking about issues that usually are ignored.
- People are going to get tired of talking about the party, but there are so many ways where the party is representative of other problems on campus — students can use those to keep the conversation going.
What are some other ways for students to address these issues? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments! I’m so grateful to the students, faculty, & administration at Fairfield for welcoming me on campus to engage in an important discussion. Definitely looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future.