By: Ray Humienny ~Campus Editor~
There is needs to be a dialogue regarding race on college campuses. Xavier stands in solidarity with people of color marginalized by discrimination. It is with deep concerns this article is produced, as to leave no stone unturned in an era of prominent student activism. Amid racial tensions at Yale, a letter is overlooked.
It was not so long ago that the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee issued an email to students to be wary of their Halloween costumes, a notification of cultural awareness and human decency. A response surfaced from Yale’s Child Study Center lecturer, Erika Christakis.
Her letter brings attention to the cognitive elements of costumes asking, “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
It is important to note that this article does not serve the purpose of chastising Christakis’s intentions. The letter intensifies debate on why appearances matter in an age when many students identify strongly with their racial backgrounds. However, it conducts this discussion with a passive air around it. Although Christakis articulates her position without trivial undertones, the aforementioned question appears as an insensitive negation of respect for diversity.
Simply put, the ugliness in this growing controversy is the element of passivity amongst racial tensions. Perhaps Christakis’s letter was misplaced, intended for a more lenient audience that does not acknowledge the offensive characteristics of a Halloween costume.
However, this is not the case. The real audience is a pool of Yale’s different cultures that will not stand idly behind an attitude of leniency, especially that which disregards the notion that there are definite consequences for being offensive toward others.
Good intentions alone do not matter. The mechanism of sensitivity works in a gruesomely intricate way; one in which there is some truth in Christakis’s comparison of delicate appropriation questions to a “slippery terrain that (she), for one, prefer(s) not to cross.”
But this belief takes no sides in a conversation where the oppressors refuse to ask these questions. There is no lush terrain when it comes to racial controversy, and something as supposedly miniscule as Halloween costumes becomes a mountain of issues in the eyes of its victims.
Within this context these victims are students whose education serves to transform them into socially aware citizens of the twenty- first century. So how does this letter reflect what we, as students, have learned?
Mainly, it shows that passivity, along with tolerance, is an ugly word, too. The remedies for our social quarrels do not come when we sit on the sidelines. However, they are also not obscenities, in reference to videos of students berating faculty about student concerns.
What message do we send when we become the image of our opposition?
Eliminating passivity is a practice in patience with those who are uneducated on cultural identity.
With that being said, it would appear as though Christakis’s letter comes off as an unwarranted follow-up to already instilled cultural awareness. Add a laissez-faire attitude, and then you have a letter that expresses ignorance in an environment that has no use for it.
Counterarguments may play into the hyperawareness of today’s youth, noting how college students tend to catastrophize minute occurrences and read race and gender into every little detail, but where do we truly omit these qualities?
Our decision making is so heavily influenced by the unconscious mind that it is virtually impossible to separate gender and race from our expressions. The only catastrophe is the belief that actions stand independent of their effects, as displayed by the misconstrued ideas of Christakis’s letter.
At the end of the day, “passivity” is still an ugly word. The mentality that believes people will simply not care does not benefit the world, especially when students with reason for racial concern begin to question their own institutions. Education goes beyond the scope of creating an intellectual environment. Education is fostering awareness, a mutual engagement of diversity and an active counter to the passive mind.