White Students: Taking Comfort For Granted Since 1846

By Hannah Warren ‘13

I believe that it is misleading when Beloit College uses words like “multicultural” and “diverse” to describe our institution’s “diversity of thought” and internationalism. While these aspects of our school are positive, I believe they have been kidnapped to mask our institution’s lack of racial diversity. I first started thinking about the way Beloit appears to minority students two years ago during my FYI, “Whiteness,” taught by Catherine Orr, which examined institutionalized racism both theoretically and within our campus and community.

I learned that the percentage of domestic minority faculty at Beloit College is hovering around one percent, a statistic guiltily absent from our brochures, website and diversity plan. I also learned that it can be frustrating and alienating for students of color to have only white professors in predominantly white classrooms. While we might discuss other cultures, and even discuss other cultural points of view, these discussions are inherently from the white perspective. I discovered that Beloit, the place where it is okay to be “weird,” the place that “changes lives,” is not a place of comfort for many students of color.

Our FYI researched past instances of outcry; times that our student body overcame our incessant apathy and protested Beloit College’s homogeneity and exclusivity. The Black Demands of 1969, student demonstrations in 1990 and the documentary, “Beloit College: Otherwise Known as White- Why Beloit College is a Racist Institution,” created by Elizabeth Young for her senior thesis in 2006, are all examples of Beloit students using their voices to push for equality. For decades, students have been fighting for curricular change; the formation of an ethnic studies program (as the current wave of advocates has dubbed it) has been a long time coming. This program is not the final solution to any problems, but it is definitely a necessary step toward the academic inclusion of students of color and others interested in studying race and ethnicity.

As a health & society major I have learned a lot about racial and economic disparities in health and health care access, an issue of great interest to me and many of my peers. Our department would truly benefit from the creation of a new ethnic studies program, where we could continue our learning and study race and ethnicity thoroughly. I can imagine some overlap in professors and courses, overall stimulating many inter-department dialogues and ideas. This is only one example. Beyond health & society, when I reflect upon my transcript I realize that every single one of the classes I have taken at Beloit, across every division, have somehow incorporated the topics of inequality and race, but never quite to the degree these issues deserve. The study of race and ethnicity warrants more than a blurb or the occasional course offering. I cannot think of a more important or feasible interdisciplinary program for Beloit than ethnic studies.

If Beloit College seeks a growing domestic minority student and faculty body, and wants to improve the shockingly high minority transfer rates and reports of discomfort, it seems essential to develop curriculum that includes racial and ethnic histories and issues. An ethnic studies program would be part of the groundwork for an interculturally competent community, where comfortability is not a privilege but instead a reality for all Beloiters, not just the ones like me, living in the blissful majority.



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