Dialogues on Race has been wrapping up its second semester session, as the various discussion groups implement their action projects throughout the week to address race issues on campus.
A program consisting of six weekly meetings, Dialogues on Race (DOR) is a discussion group led by trained student facilitators that covers issues surrounding race, identity, and racial justice. The themes of the two-hour long sessions include race at BC, race and identity, institutional racism, and race in the media.
“DOR at its most basic level is supposed to provide a space on campus for students who are curious or passionate about issues related to race to discuss their questions or observations with others. It's through the details in these dialogues that people can really learn how embedded the concept of race—even if it is a social construct—has become in our lives,” said DOR facilitator Soyeon Kim, MCAS ‘16, “For some, their racial identity is something they were forced to confront from a young age, while others might only start really understanding their racial identity, how race has played a huge role in their lives, through recent conversations with other students.”
During the sixth week of the program, each DOR group executes an on-campus action project to connect what they have learned and discussed with the wider BC community. On Monday, one group had a movie screening and discussion of Gran Torino. On Tuesday, another group created flyers that were featured around campus to encourage students to talk about race and privilege. Today, a group set up a table in McElroy where passersby could put colored stickers corresponding to their race next to different statements of privileges and oppressions. The same group will also be doing an Instagram video campaign, challenging people to state how they each fight against racism. Thursday’s group will do a photo project with various hashtags to highlight student experiences at BC.
“I would hope that it would make the majority of students more aware of their surroundings and the privileges that they may have,” said DOR participant Tahtiyanna Davis, BC ‘16, in regards to the impact of the action projects, “I would hope that they would take the time to really understand that not everyone has the access to the same opportunities. I think when people are given a visual, they become more aware and are better able to see the world for what it is and the things that are happening.”
Furthermore, although programs like DOR increase awareness about race issues, there are still large portions of the BC community who do not partake in any conversation of this kind and who do not believe that racism is prevalent on campus. “[DOR facilitator Alison Myoraku’s, MCAS ‘16,] hope is that these action projects will reach the population of BC students who don't know about certain issues regarding race, or who never had the opportunity (or reason) to stop and think about it. DOR is a great program, but [she] still [thinks] we need to work on reaching the broader BC community.”
“DOR has made me realize how much stronger students are on this campus when they are unified and when they understand each other rather than when they simply assume and believe in stereotypes,” said DOR participant Andrew Bernstein, MCAS ‘17, “By working together, students in DOR are breaking down barriers and beginning conversations that have been needed on this campus for quite some time.”
But DOR can only do so much. Though there has been change over the past years, there is still a ways to go in regards to race and diversity on campus. “I know that BC has been working on increasing diversity in the student body, but it is interesting to note that people who came here 20 years ago would tell you the exact same thing,” said Myoraku. On a similar note, Kim said, “While the students do hold some responsibility, I think it ultimately depends on the BC administration and admissions office making an even greater effort to diversify the demographics of the students. The problem (and ultimately, the solution) is definitely more institutional than it is individual.”