January 26, 2020

Conversation Is The Key To Change: Student-Organized Forum Promotes Discussion About Race

posted on: Thursday November 2, 2017

Hands holding each other. "Stronger Together"

“Stronger Together” PHOTO COURTESY OF Ventura County Peace and Justice Network

 

by: Hannah Paxton ’19

 

Asst. Opinion Editor

 

With all the negativity pervading, it is easy to believe that hatred dominates our world. The incident on Snapchat last Thursday, in which a male student dressed as Lil Wayne with an offensive caption, is no exception.

When we viewed the photo, when we read the caption, and when we called attention to it on social media, our response was anger—and rightfully so.

Cultural appropriation is one of the many forms of racism in our society. Even if a white student who wears dreadlocks and baggy clothes for Halloween is not aware of its offensive implications, that does not mean that it is not wrong.

In fact, unconscious racism is the most dangerous form of racism, not because the perpetrator is engaging in highly objectionable behavior, but because it perpetuates a culture of ignorance and silence.

In response to the horrific event on the Providence College campus, many students spread messages of encouragement and awareness, such as “#pcbreakthesilence” and “silence is racism’s biggest weapon.” To combat racism, PC did not bring a weapon but instead brought a peacemaker: conversation.

A panel was held last Thursday in ’64 Hall with one of the students who was in the photo, but did not write the caption. Over 300 students attended the event, many of them speaking out about the ramifications of the image on Snapchat and creating a dialogue about cultural appropriation and racism that is very much present on our campus.

Witnessing an act of such great offense is certainly cause for upset and hurt, but it is also an opportunity for change. This is not something PC should tolerate, nor is it something that we should forget.

However, if hate is used to fight hate, then it is hard to imagine how things could be any different.

Executive President of Student Congress Phionna-Cayola Claude ’18, along with the executive board of BMSA organized the even. Claude said, “At that moment, it was different than any other forum, because the students who were in that room were not your regular students  who usually attended forums that discussed racism.”

The fact that a crowd of several hundred PC students of various backgrounds, races, and ethnicities were able to gather in a space and have a positive, engaging, and educational discussion about race and culture is a big step in the right direction. Emotions were high; anger, frustration, and hurt were heard in       the voices of many, but channeled in a beneficial and informational manner that culminated in a peaceful resolution.

What if every incident of prejudice was challenged and brought to light with discussion? How different would our world be if we not only talked to each other, but genuinely stopped, took a moment, and listened? What if there was no silence?

When we take the time to talk to one another, we learn something we would have never otherwise thought about.

Dozens of voices were heard in ’64 Hall, voices that have continuously been ignored or repressed. In a small section of campus, students were able to converse with each other and truly understand one another’s points of view.

“There is hope to change, and there is a desperate need for change of culture at PC. That starts with being educated and aware of the privilege and struggles that every single student experiences at different extremes,” said Claude.

As a community, our mission is centered on fostering change. The Friar Four foundational pillars call for students to have honest conversations about culture, race, and bias, as well as actively pursue the truth. With this in mind, the panel was true to the College’s values.

The way PC responded matters, not just today, or even just this week. It is going to continue to matter, because in the event that something like this happens again—and it very well could—there is no better way to break the silence.

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