"BC Ignites: Diversity", a UGBC event, opened up a crucial space for Boston College to engage in a conversation about the role that race plays on campus. The event brought a variety of voices to light regarding race within the BC community and featured performances by Synergy, a hip-hop dance team, and BEATS, an a capella group.
Ines Maturana Sendoya, director of the Office of AHANA Student Programs, set the serious and yet supportive tone for the evening. She emphasized that race inevitably plays a large role in the lives of all BC students. Whether in conversations in class, between friends, or in daily interactions, the racial climate at BC should be a a topic of great interest to all members of the BC community.
“What is the change you are going to commit yourself to?” Sendoya said. While there are a variety of resources for those interestedin engaging in discussions about race, Sendoya challenged her listeners to initiate the change they want to see in making BC a more racially aware and inclusive community.
Adriana Mariella, A&S'14, voiced her belief in a united BC community. She believes that a division exists in large part due to the language of AHANA. Mariella said she believes this pits students of color and white students against each other. With an homage to Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech in Washington, we should work on disavowing our race-based assumptions and “streamline our community” by judging others on an individual basis, she said.
"If I question a part of yourself that makes you you, how would you feel?" Sandra Dickson, CSON'13, said. Dixon's perspective on the racial climate was somewhat different. BC does not comprise a campus of overt racists, she said, but she still finds herself in situations that arise due to the color of her skin, daily. Dickson said that these situations point to an ignorance and naiveté which can quickly become onerous for AHANA students.
Dickson called on students to be knowledgeable about other races and the AHANA programs at BC. It otherwise becomes hard to discern between ignorance and discrimination, she said. Ultimately, there is a need for personal exploration and betterment on behalf of every student.
"We need to reevaluate ourselves and start talking," Dickson said.
Drawing upon the foundation of equality and the struggle for civil rights that this country has endured, Matt Alonsozana, A&S'14, challenged the students to be bolder in their pursuit of a more equal and accepting BC. As a community, BC is "mum on the topic of race and silent on the issue of racism," Alonsozana said.
Given its reputation for academic and environmental perfection, Alonsozana said that BC sacrifices hard but critical discussions about its racial climate for a falsely flawless veneer. It is this deafening silence which allows misunderstanding and racial tensions to endure, he said. With no context to understand the true diversity that comprises BC, race relations at BC will continue to be strained.
Alonsozana recommended more inclusive AHANA programming, a revamped Cultural Diversity core, and frank discussion throughout campus to improve the racial climate.
But the impetus for change needs to come from the students who "by talking about racism, end it," Alonsozana said.
With this event the hope is that with a push for change and critical, campus-wide dialogue, BC will be on its way to improving the tense racial climate which continues to dominate.
BC Ignites will be continuing its discussion on race through a de-briefing event, hosted by FACES, Sept. 26 in Fulton 511 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Dialogues on Race: This program, run by the anti-racist group FACES, runs for two hours per week for six weeks. Weekly discussions are held in small groups. Discussions pertain to issues of race and identity within the BC and larger community. Sign up here!
Community Research Program: This two-semester program offers leadership and research practice for those looking to work with Latino, Asian American, and/or Black communities in Massachusetts. Click here for more information.
Heritage Months: Throughout the year, BC celebrates the heritage months of various racial and ethnic groups. For example, September is Hispanic Heritage Month, which is currently having a photo exhibition called “¿Quiénes Somos?” in the first floor of O’Neill Library.
Photos by Gillian Freedman/Gavel Media