Anti-Racism Coalition Prepares for Spring
December 12, 2013
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Efforts by students, staff and faculty to confront racism on campus have continued in the three-week period between Thanksgiving and Winter Break. Student organizers have come together to form the Coalition Against Racism Everywhere, faculty have passed a motion to cancel classes for a day next spring for the Power & Privilege Symposium and the Intercultural Center has expanded plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The Coalition Against Racism Everywhere (CARE) hopes to bring together leaders of the anti-racism movement on campus in order to build off the momentum created by recent events in past weeks, including the rally against racism
. While planning was previously done primarily by Feminists Advocating Change & Empowerment (FACE) in coordination with other groups such as the Black Student Union (BSU) and Club Latino, CARE will allow for information, resources and planning to be centralized and better coordinated.
“If you look at the official statement on diversity, what it focuses on is enriching people’s experience, which isn’t what diversity should be about. Diversity should be about allowing everyone to be learning in a safe environment and a respectful environment,” said first-year Ritti Singh, who founded CARE after recognizing the need for greater organization among anti-racism activists. “When a campus culture is making people feel unsafe, when a campus culture is making people feel daily disrespected, then you’re not allowing groups to have [an] equal shot at an education.”
CARE’s first priority is to create a manifesto stating its goals and for what the club stands. Much of its inaugural meeting on Friday, Dec. 6 was spent discussing how various terms should be used. The group plans to carry out its first action on Feb. 5 to 7 when the Board of Trustees will be meeting on campus.
Meanwhile, faculty and staff have begun the process of organizing a mentoring program for students of color to provide advice and advocate for change on campus. A reception moderated by Assistant Professor of Politics Melisa Casumbal-Salazar was held on Thursday, Dec. 5 to explore the possibility of a mentoring program. Faculty are still forming the project, which would begin next semester.
“I’ve been hearing about students’ experience with racism since day one of my classes [at Whitman]. It is no surprise to me that racism is alive and well at Whitman College,” said Casumbal-Salazar, who is working to organize the advising program and has worked with anti-racist activism on other campuses.
In addition to planning the mentoring program, the faculty passed a motion on Wednesday, Dec. 11 to cancel classes for a day this spring during the Power & Privilege Symposium. Canceling classes was a major goal for ASWC, which called for the faculty to take action in its resolution against racism.
To support student activists, the Intercultural Center is bringing civil rights leader Diane Nash, one of the lead organizers of the Freedom Riders campaign to desegregate the South in the 1960s, to campus on Jan. 29 and 30 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. With additional resources provided by the dean of students, Nash will be hosted on campus for twice as long as a normal guest speaker, during which time she will give a lecture and teach a workshop on non-violent tactics to leaders of the anti-racism movement.
“She’s a living legend in the civil rights movement,” said Intercultural Center Interim Director Matt Ozuna. “She really wants to meet with students in a workshop setting.”
While many events and programs are being planned for the spring, some concern remains about how to keep the anti-racism movement’s momentum from dissipating over the winter break. However, by organizing and planning actions before the fall semester ends, activists hope to keep their momentum and continue to build on their recent victories.
“Looking at the example of divestment, and looking at how little a presence it has this year, I worry [whether] this is something that can maintain a certain level of impetus,” said Singh. “On the other hand, I’m a freshman, so I can at least keep working as long as I’m here.”