Year in and year out, we get some sort of campus racial “controversy” or a prominent feature in The Hatchet lamenting the disarray of race relations at GW. Our new attorney general Eric Holder said that we Americans are too “cowardly” to have a conversation about race in this country. He’s clearly never been to GW. Maybe we’ve lost any sense of sanity at this school, but I respectfully ask you all to take a moment to stop and ponder a few simple questions presented in a recent Hatchet article (“Bridging the Gap,” Feb. 26, p. 1). Do you think African-American students are “isolated” at GW? And if so, who is at fault? You? Me? Them? Anyone?
For reasons passing understanding, GW finds it necessary to go through periodic bouts of self-hate. Last year we got all upset about a few notable incidents; swastikas on a door (fake), posters attacking Muslims (fake), posters in a dorm featuring Hitler (posted by a Jewish student). Many screamed the question “What does this say about GW?!?!” All of this helped lead to the creation of a marvelous new student group called Stop The Hate, which I surmise, proposed to end all hate, promote love and peace, and result in manna raining down from heaven. I suppose it worked. This academic year seemed to be relatively quiet on the racial strife front. Until, of course, The Hatchet broke its report on black student “isolation” at GW.
As a part Welsh, part Lebanese, part Indian student, the article makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be feeling the sharp pain of social isolation as well. Whether I’m walking through Kogan, eating crap at J Street or searching for non-existent Gelman studying space, I rarely encounter any other Welebanodian brethren. When does The Hatchet plan to run a giant exposé emphasizing the need for greater cultural understanding of us Welebanodian individuals? Yeah, didn’t think so. And I’m OK with that. One thing that I will always know is that I never want to be a part of any social group where I am accepted simply in order to fill someone else’s quota for minority friends. We are creating a check-the-box culture where we guilt people into maintaining a certain level of diversity within their social groups. Asian: check. Black: check. Hispanic: check. I don’t want to be just a box that someone can check off to make themselves feel better. Weird-Middle-Eastern-White-hybrid-dude: check.
And yet that is precisely what things like The Hatchet article intentionally or unintentionally encourage. It is an issue of pride. I neither need nor want any sort of coordinated publicity campaign to help me make friends. I am quite capable of doing that on my own, thank you. The notion that media institutions or school administrators either can or should actively promote the social engagement of a particular racial group on campus is incredibly condescending. It says “No, you’re not capable of integrating and finding friends on your own. You need our help.” It is hard to imagine a worse insult.
Being the serious investigative journalist that I am, I decided to dig deeper to gain a better understanding of the issue. So I asked my black roommate what he thought of the “Bridging the Gap” article. His response: “Oh Jesus Christ. I thought it was ridiculous. Just more people trying to exploit Black History Month.” Not even I am that harsh.
So what do we do about all this? Here’s a crazy idea: nothing. How about we ignore Mr. Holder’s advice, and just quit raising the issue of race where it clearly does not need to be raised? Anytime race is raised as some sort of hurdle to be overcome at this school, the dialogue itself becomes the hurdle. Erecting imaginary barriers that suggest we are a culturally insensitive, racially divided student body not only does not improve our situation, it actually impedes us from reaching our ultimate goal of harmony.
The writer is a junior majoring in Asian studies.
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