If I told you that segregation was still a real issue, would you believe that?
I recently had the opportunity to read an article archived in the Library of Congress that details an event that took place three years before one of the most famous educational civil rights cases in our country’s history, Brown v. Board. The students of the then-segregated Adkin High in North Carolina were asked to discuss and describe their ideal school. They quickly realized after discussion that the local white high school had the ideal school they described, and protests followed shortly after. These students faced segregation head-on and fought to make sure it was not repeated.
Just recently, Anderson University, a private Christian school in Indiana, released a statement to their students about data found in their campus inclusivity and diversity survey. Chalkboard Review was able to publish the statements, in which the university asked the students to attend two sessions — one for students of color and one for white students. Therein lies the issue.
Similar to Adkin High back in 1951, a conversation was to be held. The Racial Equity Task Force thought it was best to engage and have discussions only after segregating the students. This event exposes a central issue with “wokeness.” As a person of color myself, I can assure you that I want you to see my color, but I do not want opinions and assumptions made about me based on my skin color alone.
I spoke with a student of color at the university who is adamant that the community and campus are very welcoming. This student and their peers felt frustrated that the Taskforce did not think the students of color could handle being in the same sessions as their white counterparts. The topic of race itself is understandably controversial; it is an exceptionally personal topic that relates to individual experience.
However, it is not special enough that students of color need to have a special session. Special sessions lead to special water fountains, and special water fountains lead to special restaurant seating, bus seats, and so on. In our effort to be inclusive and in fear of being labeled racist, these administrators implemented the very racist practices we are trying to prevent. Inclusivity and diversity conversations begin when you can see my skin color. We can then appreciate my skin color and move on with how we can work to make [insert initiative or goal here] happen together.
Progress cannot come by “…an effort to ensure a safe space where students can voice their opinions freely.” Safe spaces do not encourage real growth. Many civil rights leaders and activists did not have safe spaces, which is what encouraged and oftentimes forced their growth. I still believe Anderson University is a great school. I know many wonderful and good-hearted people who work there that are outraged by what has happened. They too believe the approach is seriously misguided in these efforts