Discussion group on race misguided
December 1, 2014
As of this semester, a discussion group for administrators called White Administrators Talk Race now meets every other week in the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs Student Lounge. There is also a related student group called Unpacking Whiteness that meets every other Wednesday in the Kimmel Center for University Life. WATR is meant to provide a setting for administrators to examine their place as allies in the wake of escalating racial tensions. Although WATR is open to individuals of all races, most attendees have thus far been white. While WATR is well-intended, its inapt name and homogeneity among attendees limits effectiveness. The group must adjust its marketing and acknowledge its limitations.
Co-facilitator Miriam Halsey told WSN that the group would contemplate ways for administrators to take initiative in improving race relations by discussing systematic injustice, white privilege and other racialized subjects. The intention of the group is to bridge the gap between the white university leadership and the diverse student body. WATR is commendable in its aim to facilitate discussions about the inequity that remains in both university settings and the United States, but issues in execution still exist. By operating under a title that only mentions white administrators, individuals of color may feel discouraged from participating — regardless of whether exclusivity is intentional. If NYU is committed to facilitating effectual and inclusive discussions about race, administrators must be cognizant that marketing matters when promoting groups like these.
Many administrative gatherings already feature mostly white administrators discussing their views from a vantage point of collective racial similarity. Substantive conversations about race cannot be complete without contributions from those who are most affected by bigotry. Although well-intended, the goal of the group will fall short if it does not involve dialogue from individuals of color who have experienced microaggressions and racism firsthand. To more fully understand the gravity of systematic injustice, one must hear from those who endured it — to comprehend and abandon defensiveness about white privilege, one must hear from those who are disadvantaged by it.
An attempt at dialogue that understands and shrinks the divide between minority groups on campus is certainly appreciated. If WATR does not adjust its unsuitable marketing, it may deny itself an opportunity to listen to valuable insight from people of color. Having an incomplete range of perspectives can lead only to lackluster results. A meaningful connection between a predominantly white administration and a diverse student body, cannot be achieved if WATR continues to involve a portion of the equation. If WATR is not able to facilitate this comprehensive discussion, then another space must be provided for administrators. In the future, seeking diversity in administrators would also represent a meaningful step toward connecting the administration with the student body. Although WATR has a laudable goal, current marketing compromises its end.
Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]