Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, how could you mistake one for the other? But I’ll tell you my tale, if it can be called that.
Right now I’m a first year student at Barnard College. That’s all peaches and cream. Oh, yes, and for the record, I’m Asian. Anyway, I got a letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, inviting me to this reunion for alumnae of color. Students- also of color- could attend too, provided they RSVP and so forth. I didn’t go, but I kind of got a weird feeling about being invited somewhere just on the basis of ethnicity…
Okay well fast-forward to yesterday afternoon, where I receive a letter with information about internships and alumnae mentors. Once again, for students of color. The letter was even addressed, “Dear Student of Color”!!! That REALLY creeped me out.
I know before people have brought up that all African American groups, or all Latino, or whatever are different than all white because white isn’t an all encompasing cultural group. But neither is colored. It just really really bothered me that someone would think about me in terms of race, not merit.
It’s like…if someone addressed a letter to a Caucasian person saying, “Hey Whitey, want to join the Aryan Nation?” that would be very strange. This just got to me in the same way. It was particularly disturbing coming from a college that I have really respected and admired. And I guess because I don’t even think of myself in terms of race or religion or country and I don’t want to be labelled by someone else. Oh well.
I’m half Asian, and I received the same kinds of solicitations when I went to both undergrad and graduate school.
Get used to it. Among the liberal arts institutions I know of, it’s common practice to send out those kinds of letters, in the belief that one might feel more comfortable among members of their own ethnicity. I think it kind of sucks, but I also knew of people at my college who really benefitted from being provided with a network of others like them who could give them support and anything else they needed or missed (food, for instance). As far as “racist or overly PC,” I’d put it in the overly PC camp. At least that’s how I experienced it when I was in college, where we had a “diversity requirement” (I fulfilled it by taking African-American History, taught by, if you can believe it, a nebbishy guy named Weisbrot. I really liked him as a lecturer) and most everyone was totally paranoid about offending anyone else.
Straighten up, young man! You’re in a minority, whether you like it or not! What, you don’t realize you’ve been being kept down by the Man this whole time?!? Join the struggle! You can’t fight the power if you’re gonna insist on succeeding on your own merits!
While I appreciate the sentimint that they want everyone to feel included, to use the term “of color” seems quite bizarre.
What, lieu, hasn’t anyone ever told you you’re completely transparent???
Yeah, quite bizarre. Next thing you know, they will be inviting you to a box social.
Um, lieu’s a guy…a box social would only be for women, wouldn’t it?
I wanna say Bravo! and applaud loudly. I actually want to say more, but am having trouble being articulate.
If you flip it around, it’s really weird. Essentially they are grouping everyone who’s not Caucasian.
Suppose they invited everyone except indigenous Americans. Or everyone except Asians.
I’m not sure what you mean kasuo.
Cataloging or referencing people based on their “color” does seem a bit racist to me and I seriously doubt if that was the schools intent, not to mention that it’s completely inaccurate.
I want to point out that often the letters like Zoggie’s describing originate from the various ethnic student organizations. I’m sure they get a list of students from the admissions office (basically, whoever checked the appropriate box on the application), and send out mailings encouraging people to come to meetings or functions. I’d still maintain that it isn’t racist so much as offering folks support if they need it. Believe me, in a small college town in central Maine where I’d say over 3/4 of the student body was Caucasian, some of the “students of color” really valued the connections they made among people of similar cultural backgrounds.
Hail, fellow Columbia student (well, sort of… Barnard wasn’t too keen on Columbia College students in my day!).
While I (a 41 year old white guy) don’t find the idea of a “Students/Alumnae of Color” organization particularly offensive, I must admit, I can’t grasp the appeal of such a group, just as I can’t grasp the idea of “white solidarity” or “white nationalism.”
What, precisely, does a Catholic Nigerian have in common with a Chinese atheist? What does a Pakistani Moslem have in common with a Cherokeel Baptist? What does a Thai Buddhist have in common with an Ethiopian Jew? The answer is… NOTHING (necessarily)! They have NO basis for association. There’s absolutely no reason to think they have common values, common beliefs, or common interests.
A Chinese Students/Alumnae Association makes sense to me. A Chicana Students/Alumnae Association makes sense. An Arab, Irish, Jewish, or Albanian association makes sense. But being “non-white” sure seems like a silly criterion for membership in ANY group.
For some reason, I hear this in Henry Gibson’s voice.
It sounds racists to me. Just imagine if all the white students had gotten a letter inviting them, but excluding “people of color.”
According to our friends Merriam and Webster, racism is:
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination
So, this isn’t racism, as they aren’t talking about superiority or practicing prejudice or discrimination. It is, however, segregation.
I once walked into a lecturers office. She was sitting there with one of her collegues (unknown to any of the students).
Upon seeing me, her first reaction was
“Bloody hell… he looks exotic doesn’t he?”
and her insistance that
“My best friend’s dark! I like dark people!”
My lecturer wanted to crawl into a hole and die on the spot.
FTR, I felt it was a li’l wierd too.
But I didn’t rib her too much about it.
Ultimately, how you see the world is more useful than how the world sees you.
OK, I admit that sounds like an empty aphorism, but it’s an attitue that’s gotten strong people through times of genuine isolation. So it should still apply in times of ingenuous, or at least dubious, solidarity.
Plus, you might always meet somebody cute.
So should we call you Zogie of Color?
Or better yet
Yeah, but if he was white, what would you call him:
Zogie without color ?
Colorless Zogie ?
Zogie of no color ?