Dear LC Community,
I am writing to express my deep disappointment with our community’s lack of support during this year’s Race Monologues. As a student who has been deeply involved in the Ray Warren Symposium (RWS) in the last three years, I bear witness and I embody the significance of Race Monologues, an event that spotlights the personal narratives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), especially at our predominantly white institution (PWI).
It is not a secret that in previous years, Race Monologues was one of the biggest events on campus. Staff members who have been here since the founding of Race Monologues in 2002 will tell you about the stories from when it was originally performed at Stamm Hall, crowded to the point of discomfort, until they finally moved it to the chapel to accommodate for the constant high turnout of students. In the RWS website itself, you can find pictures of the chapel seats full. In previous years, people would line out the door early to secure a seat for Race Monologues, sometimes, with a line wrapping around Frank Manor. In some years, people were also turned away due to full capacity.
This year, however, the crowd was nowhere close to what it has been in the past, having approximately half of the seats empty. Although we are aware that there was a play going on at the exact same time as Race Monologues, the absence of bodies in the audience is a strong indicator of whose narratives are prioritized in the community. While many white people say they couldn’t show up due to inconvenience and lack of energy, the student presenters and coordinators spent an immense amount of emotional energy and time during the previous weeks to prepare for our monologues. Even though we are burnt out socially, academically, and physically, we still pull within ourselves the strength to partake in Race Monologues. The least white students, faculty and staff can do is show up on a Friday night.
Our campus considers itself liberal and progressive, so white people must be conscious of the importance of solidarity, otherwise they are complacent in perpetrating institutional invisibilization and harm to BIPOC bodies on campus. In terms of Race Monologues, solidarity is shown, at the bare minimum, through the presence of the white bodies in the audience. Although we have learned to not expect the help of white people in our fight for inclusion and racial justice, we do notice that the power of our resistance grows when white students, faculty, and staff support (and not overtake) our voices.
If LC wants to claim to be as progressive, liberal, and inclusive as they do, their actions should match their claims. You should be constantly doing the work to challenge yourself and the racist discourses that our society normalizes. You should be constantly using your access to literature, internet, and higher education to continue learning about the communities who are often left behind. You should be constantly listening and validating the voices from BIPOC, first generation, international, and marginalized students.
And, if it’s still not clear enough, you should be showing up to the only event in the fall semester where BIPOC students can reclaim their narratives and invite you to their world. The existence of BIPOC bodies at our PWI is revolutionary and an art form, and should be treated as such. Otherwise, your intellectual laziness is making you miss out on the very same “diversity” you continuously praise and defend as core values of this institution.
Race Monologues was founded and carried over by the voices of hundreds of BIPOC and international students for over two decades, and if the new generation fails to see the importance of that space and disappears due to beliefs of a post-racial campus structure; the labor, love and care from the generations before us will be disdained.
Mental health matters—trust me I know—but when you prioritize white tears and fragility over the voices of BIPOC students who, even if they are hurting, must continue to show up, you make your carelessness and chosen ignorance very evident. The ability to pick and choose when not to care is selfish and performative. Do better, otherwise, you will be the continuous embodiment of structural racism.
How much longer do you plan to continue to fail us and yourself?
Rocío Yao (RWS ‘22 Co-Chair & Race Monologues Presenter in 2021, 2022, and 2023)
Written on behalf of other RWS Co-Chairs, RWS participants, and 2023 Race Monologues Presenters.
This letter does not encompass the views of all participants. Individual opinions may vary.