Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 22, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsActivism 101

Why You Should Care About #POCatIC, Even if You’re White

This may be one of the hardest blogs I’ve ever written. This post has gone through several drafts because I’ve really struggled deciding whether or not my voice should take up space in this movement addressing racism at Ithaca College that has led to protests and students expressing no confidence in President Rochon.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about please read up on the many racially-charged incidents that have occurred on campus like AEPi’s racist “Preps and Crooks” themed party, the Blue Sky Reimaging Kick-Off event where a black woman was repeatedly referred to as a savage and Rochon’s failure to adequately address these incidents and student responses. Please follow the hashtag POCatIC on Facebook and like their Facebook page. Attend demand sessions and become informed before you continue. Listen to what students of color on this campus are saying before you listen to what I have to say.

As a white women who attends a predominately white institution—I have the privilege to ignore the issues going on around me if I choose.

But I don’t want to.

An unsafe, uncomfortable, and racist campus climate that affects a large group of students impacts everyone, limits how much we can learn, and  takes away from our ability to listen to the experiences of others and have an understanding of our own privilege.

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen unproductive Facebook posts—(predominately) white males trying to “spark debate” (phrase taken from an actual post on the Class of 2017 Facebook page) over the recent events and frustration that students have with our president (which they have a right to feel). I’ve heard students imply that POCatIC needs to chill, that they should have listened to what Rochon had to say at the Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias event and that they shouldn’t have walked out. Others have been completely apathetic and unaware.

When really, POC at Ithaca College have right to be mad. They have a right to want to walk out on an administration that has been aware of racial biases and has done little to address it unless it’s for PR and to protect the college’s image.

Growing up, I went to a predominately white high school. I facilitated programs on diversity, stereotypes, and inclusion that never once involved a serious discussion on racism or sexism. I didn’t know what privilege was. I thought racism was when you were openly hateful towards someone because of their race—I didn’t know it could take place in mircoaggressions or that it was systemic and institutional. To be completely honest, until college I bought into the myth that racism wasn’t really an issue anymore. I was taught to believe that.

I was misinformed and unaware and I missed out on a lot because of it. When I started learning about feminism, I had no idea that women of color navigate through many more obstacles due to race and patriarchy than I do. Being unaware of this, made my learning and activism very surface-level and for years I fell short of actually being able to address these issues in a mindful and effective way.

Let me be clear, it is not the job of people of color to educate us white people about racism and white supremacy. It is our job to listen to what they’re saying and the stories their sharing.

We must think critically about the ways in which racism and a lack of inclusivity on our campus is harmful and prevents us from understanding the world we live in in-depth. Because of this, we can’t leverage our privilege to dismantle systems of inequality.

That’s why I’d like to make a statement of no confidence against President Rochon for failing to properly address racism on our campus despite being aware of it, for not holding students who perpetuate racism accountable, and for not taking more rigorous steps to respond to student’s concerns and discomfort in a sincere way.