Recirculating the conversation: Whitman’s failure to address anti-racism demands

Alanna Sherman, Columnist

On July 26, 2020, the The Wire published “Results May Vary,” an op-ed listing the demands of Black, Indigenous, people of color and allies attending and working at Whitman College. “Results May Vary” addressed the historical and systemic racist roots of the institution that have only continued to grow within its predominantly white and violent climate. 

The authors of “Results May Vary” emphasized how Whitman’s Inclusion Task Force has repeatedly requested students of the global majority, “whose emotional labor has been exploited for years,” to answer questions, share personal experiences and offer ideas to build a more inclusive environment. 

Every single year, Black, Indigenous and students and faculty of color express their experiences and concerns very clearly and consistently offer ideas that would lead to improvement, but every single year, Whitman administration members ignore and disregard their voices. 

Over a year ago, “Results May Vary” listed very simple and clear demands of Whitman College in order to create an inclusive environment. A few of these demands included a required first-year anti-racist course taught by BIPOC professors; racial bias training workshops for all non-BIPOC professors, faculty and students; a higher prevalence of Black and Indigenous viewpoints in all fields of study; a partnership with Historically Black Colleges around the nation; an addition of more African languages to the foreign language department; among others.

Illustration by Madi Welch.

Time continues to pass and these demands carry on with being ignored and unheard, resulting in zero impactful changes and a clear exposure of Whitman’s intentions and values. 

As the authors state, “Since 1970 the Whitman administration has displayed a clear lack of effort towards actively participating in creating an anti-racist environment for BIPOC students. On numerous occasions, Whitman has failed to create proactive responses about current racial violence in America, racial tensions on campus and the mistreatment from the Whitman administration.”

Whitman consistently profits off of and tokenizes their Black, Indigenous and students of color, but the institution refuses to open its ears and consider the possibility for change. Whitman loves to flash photos and advertise the school’s “diversity,” but repeatedly attempts to hide the racist environment behind closed doors. Whitman excessively brags about their statistics of students flying in from outside of the country, but fails to meet their needs and wishes when the school is so quick to cradle white students who grew up in the United States. 

We have officially reached the fall of 2021, and these demands, yet again, have been fully disregarded. Whitman College claims to be an “anti-racist institution,” but the school refuses to listen to the voices of those severely impacted by its racist environment, arguably making Whitman an institution that upholds and maintains white supremacist values. 

To the white faculty members, when are you going to listen to these demands and decolonize your syllabi by incorporating Black, Indigenous and authors of color into our assignments and readings? White students, why do we continue to remain silent about the violence our friends and classmates face? 

Our peers put in a tremendous amount of time and energy to write and publish these demands, just for “Results May Vary” to be swept under the rug. When are we going to express our anger about this mistreatment and blatant disrespect of our community members? 

It is time that white students and faculty put pressure on the school to meet these demands. We cannot expect Black, Indigenous and students and faculty of color to solve the violent problems that we have constructed and perpetuated. Whitman, do you actually strive to be anti-racist and inclusive, or is it just a facade?