a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
By Elizabeth Dunn
“So, basically what you’re saying is that no white people are worth your time?”
I’m speechless. This surprisingly defensive question from my CRA caused me to mentally check out from the conversation.
We’ve been going back and forth for an hour now. There are twelve students (mostly people of color) trying to explain to our CRA that the reason people have complained about, or rather made “observations” concerning our particular friend group spending time in his (the CRA’s) room, is because of our skin color. Apparently, we have been intimidating people, creating an “exclusive” and “cold” vibe and discouraging them from entering.
We talk about the microaggressions we’ve experienced on this campus, the feeling of not belonging and exclusion that happens to us every time we walk into our classrooms, the dining halls, or even our own dorms. There’s a certain pressure and awareness that occurs when you’re the only person of a particular demographic in a situation, and it’s definitely not pleasant. Especially when it happens all the time, virtually everywhere we go. Naturally we feel more comfortable around people we know have been through the same experiences, and who are less likely to commit them against us (i.e. other people of color). However, somehow this is twisted into “not thinking white people are worth our time” instead of the survival mechanism it actually is.
Excluding that comment though, our CRA mostly attempts to be empathetic and understanding. They insist that while we experience racial microaggressions and discrimination on this campus, this isn’t one of those situations; that it’s simply a matter of group dynamics; that if our group is occupying their room, introverted people will be discouraged from coming in; that we are such a tightly knit group it can make others uncomfortable. All of which are very solid points. And if we were any other group, they would probably be true.
However, as people of color on this campus, we don’t have the luxury of thinking in so optimistically. Many of the issues we have faced are directly tied to our race, and the assumptions people make about us because of the color of our skin, so what evidence do we have that this isn’t just another iteration of the casual racism and microaggressions that constitute our everyday lives.
Based on the experiences that many of us have had at this school, it’s not shocking that we assume this situation has racial undertones. From white people assuming we must be Posse Scholars because we’re people of color to them asking us why people of color need our own separate spaces like PALANA, our mental and psychological well-being is constantly being tested.
And that’s the crux of the issue. It isn’t with our CRA; it’s in the environment the college of Middlebury has created for itself. Rather than fostering learning opportunities for all types of students, the issues people of color on this campus face are generally ignored. Like many institutions of higher learning in this country, Middlebury is founded on a framework of white supremacist ideals, which are firmly entrenched in racism even when they’re supposedly becoming more progressive. Take Alexander Twilight for example; touted as the first Black American to graduate from this college, it’s likely that he never revealed his race while at Middlebury and only got in because he was white-passing. Had he been visibly Black, the story may have turned out very differently.
The Middlebury status quo is white supremacy. It’s catering to the comfort of the majority, i.e. white people. It’s in the Eurocentric distribution requirements, the fact that it’s taken so long to get the Intercultural Center off of the ground, the lack of diversity in our classes, and the fact that by merely existing as a group of people of color on this campus we are making people uncomfortable enough to “make observations” about us.