Stitching up a deep wound

Students perspectives on racism on campus and in the world

Will Nelson, Columnist

You’ve most likely read elsewhere in the Oracle about the numerous happenings concerning diversity and race on campus lately. One day, incidents involving racially insensitive language, the next, students calling out faculty at a panel about racism for their egregious lack of representation. 

On a larger scale, President Trump’s scheduled visit to Minneapolis this week has also been subject to vigorous debate. All over campus, ideas are being shared and spread as students partake in important discussions about how Hamline can handle these issues.

One topic that has continuously been brought up is the idea of discomfort. I’ve noticed that students who tend to shy away from partaking in conversations about race do so because they feel uncomfortable.

“Racism and combating racism shouldn’t feel good. You should feel angry. You should feel guilty,” first-year Fatima Raye Menawa said. “A lot of people were talking after the panel, saying ‘Oh, that was uncomfortable for me, I’m uncomfortable talking about [racism].’ But imagine facing it. There is privilege in being uncomfortable because unlike people of color if race makes you uncomfortable you are able to step in and out of conversations, whereas marginalized people cannot step out of their skin, sexuality or whatever identity that people use to oppress them. To step out of the conversation is not an option.

Discomfort is not an excuse for perpetuating your own ignorance. Think of it like this: exercising your brain is no different than exercising your body. Working out at the gym might be uncomfortable, but you come away improved. Having uncomfortable conversations is no different, and it’s vastly more important than you might imagine. 

It’s clear that there is a systemic problem at Hamline, in Minnesota, in the United States and the world at large. It might seem hopeless, trying to take on a problem that seems to be in the hands of a government or administration that you didn’t elect. Everyone tells us that democracy puts all the power in the people, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. How can we change systematized racism if we can’t change the system that upholds it? 

But even if we didn’t have the alleged protection of powers that our democratic system tenuously promised us, we still have more power than we think. The system is comprised of people, so societal change always happens from the ground up. 

“We have to start somewhere,” first-year McKaylee Berg says. “It’s our job as citizens to elect the right people because ultimately, it’s them who make the policies.”

What do we do with that power, then? We must use it to elect leaders who will deliberately and systematically displace and reconstruct our societally bound ways of handling these particular issues of racism. An ideological revolution. 

That’s why having difficult conversations is so important because it’s by way of the people that society changes. 

Ideas operate by the same principles as natural selection. The old ideas dominate, as currently illustrated by our antiquated laws and broken judicial system until they are less adapted to their environment (society) than the new ideas. Not only do we have the power to produce new ideas, but we also have the power to change society. So yes, change will come. The question is, when?

One promising move is a resolution currently being written to be presented to HUSC.

“It’s all about creating a subcommittee in HUSC to talk about how we can tackle the institutionalized oppression and how we can make faculty understand how we can better mend racial tensions and show why diversity matters,” first-year representative Anthony Meng, who is drafting the resolution said. 

A subcommittee devoted entirely to dealing with issues of diversity on a student-run congress could vastly improve communication between students and administration, alleviating growing tensions between the two.

“One of the parts of the bill,” Meng said, “is about how we, the first-years, and excuse me for using this lingo, can ‘Take the Lead’ on how we can really use diversity and implement diversity within our own community.” 

Resolving the myriad of issues surrounding campus diversity has been, and will continue to be, a long a difficult road, but Hamline is taking steps in the right direction. 

Nonetheless, it is an incredibly nuanced and complicated process. As Anthony Meng put it, “We have to put stitches on this wound, not a band-aid.”