Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

FACES Challenges Student Organizations to #TheRaceAgainstRacism

FACES, Boston College's anti-racism organization, kicked off their social media initiative “#TheRaceAgainstRacism,” which challenged two student organizations to respond within 72 hours with two short term and one long term goals containing “actionable ways to combat anti-blackness" within their organizations and to call on two more student groups to lay out their own goals

FACES began the project on Feb. 13 by challenging UGBC and 4Boston, and the race has since spread to include over 40 organizations on-campus, including The Gavel.

Co-director Jessica Murray, MCAS ‘19, described FACES as a “BC born anti-racist organization that aims to combat racism through conversation and most recently activism.”

Founded in 2003, FACES intends to promote dialogue on campus to address pervasive issues of racism that plague the BC community. In recent years, FACES has sought to move “away from just a conversation model [to] be engaged on campus in other ways.”

The FACES directors highlighted that the organization is not simply anti-racist, but also seeks to fight specifically against anti-blackness on campus, a distinction many do not realize.

Co-director Hailey Burgess, MCAS ‘19, explained that “there are forms of racism that are only experienced by black students,” and it important to understand the nuances of the ways racism can manifest itself on campus, if one is to address it.

According to Murray, the challenge began when Phil McHugh, CSOM ‘19, approached the FACES Council and proposed the idea that would become #TheRaceAgainstRacism Challenge. He had realized that the necessary conversations addressing racism in BC’s culture were not happening, and that steps needed to be taken to promote these discussions and “start holding organizations accountable.”

Moreover, the best way to “impact the social climate on campus” is to go “through student organizations” and use their “organizational support” to create “networks of accountability.” 

While FACES has recently sought means of advocacy beyond just conversation, they still recognize the importance of dialogue, and want to “destigmatize the conversation” around racism. FACES considers it a victory that as a result of the challenge, organizations are thinking about how they can help combat racism and anti-blackness on campus.

Furthermore, one of the goals of the challenge is to foster a student organizational culture in which “all students...feel comfortable in any of these clubs.”

While it may not be an “active hostility,” Burgess observed that many clubs on campus can be “hostile spaces,” as it is “clear that they are not actively engaged on issues of social justice on campus.” However, they hope that this challenge spurs organizations to demonstrate their commitment to fighting racism, specifically anti-blackness, by “getting everyone engaged” in an effort to help black students and other students of color feel welcome.

Although pleased that many organizations have responded to the challenge, the directors still acknowledged that their responses have fallen short in some regards. Specifically, they felt that the goals proposed by some organizations were not truly actionable steps, but rather vague commitments to diversity.

According to Murray, many organizations “think a solution is just diversity and inclusion,” however, “just a seat at the table is not the answer.”

Burgess labeled this a “substitute for actual change.” Although the directors clarified that they are not against diversity, they also emphasized that “diversity is a step, but it is not the only step, and it is not the solution to racism and anti-blackness.”

While FACES is delighted to have kickstarted new dialogue addressing racism and anti-blackness at BC, Murray and Burgess reiterated that “we don’t want these conversations to be the end of it.”

"Conversation is great, but if you’re not going to do anything, it’s not going evoke any change,” said Murray, adding that “actionable steps” must be taken.

Students who feel inspired by #TheRaceAgainstRacism to take action and get involved are encouraged to reach out to the leadership of FACES, either through email ([email protected]), Facebook, or Instagram (@faces.council).

 

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