LC’s recent history has been marred by racist acts.Let’s take time to reflect.

By Caleb Diehl /// Editor-in-Chief

Let’s talk about race at Lewis & Clark. Better yet, let’s listen. Though administrators and marketing professionals hush it up, and privileged students assume it could never happen at LC, racism still surfaces on campus in forms uglier than most students imagine. Fortunately, students are the people who keep our campus honest. At tonight’s race monologues, the finale to the Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies, students take the stage to reclaim uncomfortable encounters and violated spaces. Listen to them, and they’ll give you their picture of LC, a picture unfiltered and raw.

Amid glossy symposium advertisements, we must not forget that last year, a student ripped a Ray Warren banner to shreds and torched other event posters. Those aggressive acts, along with at least six instances of racist hate speech, galvanized the Black Student Union and fellow leaders into forming the Walk the Talk movement. For the better part of a day, students camped outside Frank Manor House and made speeches, urging administrators to make the hate and bias incident code more specific, and punish the students responsible for the hate crimes.

Most students who remember the events of last fall would now agree that the Walk the Talk movement, born under snow flurries, soon went as cold as a corpse. The organizers’ list of demands shriveled to “requests.” At a spring semester meeting to discuss the movement’s progress, barely 30 students dotted the seats of Council Chamber. Administrators’ efforts at reform stuck to the realm of theory and long-term strategic planning.

This year arrived with radio silence on the movement’s progress or remaining goals. To first-years, the phrase “Walk the Talk” is nothing but a heartwarming aphorism.

While the movement dwindled,  and many of its concerns went unresolved, racism lived on in less conspicous comments. Emulating a Harvard University initiative, the Facebook page “I, Too, am LC” arose to document microaggressions, culturally insensitive or racist comments hurled in seconds. In the Pioneer Log’s coverage of the page, its founder, Karissa Tom (’16), gave examples from her personal life, ranging from Asian fetishization to comments like, “you’re such a studious Asian.”

Too many of us are lulled into a false impression of inclusivity by Portland’s reputation as a liberal haven, and by the summer camp feel of LC’s insular campus. From time to time, we need to review our history.

It is the banner shredding, the intimidation, the passing slurs that remind us that racism happens at LC. It happens unexpectedly, and it happens quickly. Perhaps tonight’s program will remind you as well. Hopefully you’ll be spurred toward action, but tonight you don’t have to take a step or say a word. Just listen.

Click here for more information about Race Dialogues, a student led initiative to have open, vulnerable, educational, and challenging conversations about race. 

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