Social justice retreats represent step in right direction

Empowering students of color in a world ruled by white privilege.

These are tough conversations to have.

First thing’s first, we’re going to tackle the elephant in the room: The Barometer editorial staff has, as they have for years past, a white majority. We don’t presume to have the reigning overall opinion or even knowledge of what’s going on. We fully understand that we don’t understand the experience of what students of color go through.

Like other campus organizations, we continue to seek out ways we can further enhance our own perspectives and speak on these issues with more educated and relevant input.

For instance, we initially did not know what to think when we received word of at least four social justice retreats taking place this winter. As we understand, there are separate retreats designed to speak on the issues of empowering students of color and acknowledge problems of privilege among white students.

Some of our editors’ first reactions were ones of confusion, as we did not understand the concept of separating people in rooms based on race.

How can we continue to have constructive conversations of the problems if the conversations remain split into sectors?

A few thoughts crossed our minds in this regard.

First, it is essential to realize the significance of a safe environment, as some of these conversations can involve very deep, triggering topics that many may not feel comfortable talking about out in the open.

One comparison made was what we would expect at a session at Counseling and Psychological Services. Naturally, if someone experiences an event he or she finds traumatic, they will only feel more comfortable speaking in an environment where they won’t be blamed or ridiculed for any given reason.

In regards to institutional racism, we still have many over-entitled white people in our society who would rather blame the victim than assist.

These are often the same individuals who make arguments such as “there’s a Black History Month, where’s my White History Month?”

The same type of ignorance can be seen in any negative reactions surrounding these social retreats. 

The reason we have these empowering environments in place is not to make anyone less equal or deny rights, but rather to finally tip the scales so everyone can remain equal.

It’s another very difficult part of the conversation to admit, but this has been a very white-oriented society.

That’s why we don’t “need” a “White History Month,” and why so much around us must continue to change.

We, as an editorial board, want to understand everything about these events as they continue to develop.

In addition, we want to do everything we can to assist international, multicultural and students of color on campus so that they may themselves feel more empowered as time progresses.

The officials who put these separate retreats in order believe this is the next best step in ensuring we arrive in the right spot.

We commend them for their actions and believe this, as it currently stands, is one of the best choices we can make.

We do, however, still believe we must, at some point, continue to combine environments and conversations that may not feel as comfortable. Conversations about race must, at some point, include both white members and people of color.

Then, and only then, may we have a better idea of where we stand in regards to establishing a more accepting culture capable of thriving in a global economy.

But more than anything, we would like to say the following to white students:

As cliché as it sounds, check your privilege, indeed.

This is not your community or their community.

It’s our community altogether, and it’s time to start acting like it.

We hope these retreats will tell us more about our collective identity as they progress.

Editorials serve as means for Barometer editors to offer commentary and opinions on issues both global and local, grand in scale or diminutive. The views expressed here are a reflection of the editorial board’s majority.

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