Showing up

I attended the Walk Out in Solidarity today and I first want to commend everyone in class who helped put together the event. With everything happening around the U.S. and on our own campus, I was thankful to have an opportunity to express solidarity with black students across the country and students of color at Hamilton College. I was also happy to see such a great turnout by Hamilton students and staff. Sometimes I feel like most students on campus, especially students without personal investment in areas of race and injustice (i.e., white students), merely “share” politically correct Facebook statuses and do not take real steps towards activating change. That so many individuals showed up today to support students of color made me very happy and showed that some people are willing to take actions to express solidarity with students of color. To the students of color in this class reading my post: I hope that today is a reminder that you are not alone and that you do have allies among the white students on the hill. Clearly racism on campus is an issue that many people are aware of and want to address. We may just have enough supportive people to make the list of demands that we drafted in class today a reality.

As I write this post, I am conflicted about something. While I am happy that many people showed up to support this march, I worry that showing up does not do enough to support students of color on this campus. The burden of organizing should not fall only on the students who have the most to lose by not facing these issues. I myself merely showed up to this protest but did nothing to organize it. I left the walk feeling as though I should have done more to set it up and that it was unfair that the students who are also under the most emotional strain from racism on college campuses had to take the time to organize. I am at the same time, however, wondering if as a white ally it is my place to help organize around these issues at all.

I have a similar question when I think about faculty of color on Hamilton’s campus. Obviously bringing more faculty of color on the hill will decrease the amount of emotional labor that any one faculty of color has to do. In order for this change to be long lasting, however, we need to retain the faculty of color that we do have. This means not burning them out. At present, to me, this means that white faculty need to share the burden of providing knowledge of and emotional care for individuals who experience racism on campus. But is that the place of a white professor? Can white professors learn enough to support students of color well? Or are only faculty of color capable of providing this support?

I realize that this post is more questions than answers and I welcome any feedback. I want to end by saying that I admire and support each of you in the work that you’re doing in our classroom and outside of it. I am here to help you win this fight against injustice and hate. I am here to do more than just show up.

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