Op-Ed misrepresented cultural orgs

By

Will Clarke Contributing WriterAlex Flores Contributing Writer

The fundamental problem of American democracy in the 21st century is the problem of “structural racism”: the deep patterns of socioeconomic inequality and accumulated disadvantage that are coded by race, and constantly justified in public discourse by both racist stereotypes and white indifference Manning Marable.

The diversity that constitutes each cultural org is too remarkable to dignify such quotes like “You are not Latino, You are not Native, You sure as hell are not black.” We students of color, in the constant position of having to educate others about our cultures, need not open up our lives to the scrutiny or needs of the white majority. While imperfect, cultural orgs do not foster anger or racism, nor are they obligated to “embrace someone’s curiosity.” In ignoring the foundations of racism that have oppressed people of color, we risk perpetuating the same classifications of bodies that Maria Patrocollo, in her editorial last week, protests. This obsession with classifying, ordering and naming is not a process specific to the United States. The riots in France, and recent examples of genocide in Bosnia, Sudan and Rwanda are indicative of how racial and ethnic violence exist in many countries outside the United States.

Cultural organizations have become crucial for many minority students at Macalester. Unfortunately, Patrocollo grossly misrepresents cultural organizations, their make-up and their focus. It is difficult to digest the “quotes” that portray cultural orgs in such a simplistic light. Based upon known reality of cultural orgs, those claims seem extraordinary. For Will and Alex (co-authors of this editorial), cultural orgs were vital to their survival as first years of color at Macalester. In the purportedly multicultural environment of this college, these orgs are contributing to the formation and articulation of a liberal arts college community that is inclusive of diverse peoples. Rather than perpetuating racism, these organizations are in a constant state of conflict with the racist underpinnings of American culture and society.

Cultural orgs exist foremost as space for students of color to form community and fellowship; on a campus where more than seventy percent of the student body is white, the day-to-day spaces we experience here are inherently white. Whether it is Dupre Hall, a sporting event, the cafeteria, library, or classroom there are few spaces for people of color to gather in the absence of an overwhelming white majority. Moreover, cultural orgs are a crucial component of the ongoing discourse on race at Macalester. Without the campus agitation and activism of cultural orgs and their members, many now existing departments such as the American Studies Department and the Department of Multicultural Life would not have been formed. These organizations have been, and continue to be, crucial sites for the advancement of an anti-racist agenda which continually shapes the Macalester communities’ approach to matters of race, ethnicity and culture.

We, as political individuals cannot and should not be colorblind. Adopting a colorblind perspective would lead to our own failure to redress ongoing structural and societal racial injustice. The abundance of racism in the Unites States and abroad demands that we steadfastly refuse to become colorblind. And if you’re still not satisfied, take a bus into North Minneapolis.

If you have further questions that could not be answered in such a short space, please direct your attention to: 1) So Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum; 2) The Possessive Investment in Whiteness by George Lipsit;, 3) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; 4) Racial Formations in the United States by Michael Omi and Howard Winant.

Contact Kemi Adeyemi ’07 at [email protected]; Will Clarke ’07 at [email protected]; Alex Flores ’08 at [email protected]