At a place like Boston College, where everyone is intelligent and feels the need to be a paradigm of perfection, very few people would outwardly declare, “I’m racist.” Students claim that their involvement in Appa, the fact that they go to Mass every Sunday, and their recent participation in the Boston Women’s March excuses them from being considered one of the marginalizing forces in society. Many fail to continue enduring activist work, and as a result, tunnel vision on one issue is often formed. Volunteer work here and there makes people feel like good people. And good people don’t discriminate. Good people aren’t racist.
These same BC students have been discussing the recently released (and then pulled) Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad, using it to lament on the state of race relations in America.
In the ad, a large crowd of millennials marches down a city street, participating in some generic protest and straddling generic signs which say things like, “Join the conversation.” A line of policemen stands in front of the protesters. There’s tension in the air. In the ad’s climax, Kendall Jenner swoops out of nowhere (she wasn’t even part of the protest) and hands one of the police officers a can of Pepsi. The entire city erupts into raucous joy as this carbonated drink somehow brings people of all backgrounds together and ends racism in America as we know it.
Besides Pepsi and the creators of the ad, the plot sounds decent to approximately no one else. To think that Kendall Jenner and a beverage can satisfy the goals of something resembling recent Black Lives Matter protests is ridiculous and offensive to real-life protesters. SNL made a hilarious skit mocking the sheer blindness of the ad’s creators. Needless to say, it doesn’t take two semesters of sociology for a BC student to realize how tone-deaf the ad is.
Yet, despite this apparent awareness among BC students—dialogues on race, diversity, and equality aren’t manifested at BC as much as students like to think. One quick scan of Mac at noon is all you need in order to see BC’s lack of racial harmony. We all know where the blonde girls from Kostka sit together; where the white jocks from Chevy eat; where the black and Latino kids from Xavier’s Multicultural Learning floor can be found; where the Chinese internationals sit and talk in their native tongue, blocked from the rest of the community. It seems as though everyone is separate, with no chance to discover what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
So why is it that students are aware enough to mock a deservedly vilified Pepsi Ad, but not self-aware enough to realize their own subtle forms of discrimination? Is it because it’s easy to dismiss anything that involves a Keeping Up With the Kardashians star?
BC’s culture is one that promotes an ideal of perfection, one in which everyone is required to be x, y, and z (among those being “not racist”), that they fail to realize that discrimination is only human. Learning to accept the ugly sides of yourself is the only way that serious issues like racial separation can be eradicated on campus.
Living in a culture of self-denial and unfounded declarations of “not being racist” is the equivalent of the Pepsi Ad. It creates an illusion of equality and perfection, when in reality, the problems have been shoved under the rug, just waiting to pop out again.
In the end, actions speak much louder than words. By paying attention to the racial segregation that exists across campus, you can do something about it. You can contribute to the small, but budding dialogue on race and equality at BC, and grow personally alongside it.