Society taught me not to voice my opinion, not to create controversy. As a female, I was taught my place is not to speak up or to be loud. I have been quiet. I have kept my opinions to myself. Nevertheless, by keeping my opinions to myself, by being quiet about things that I believe are wrong I have been complicit in oppression. As a white straight able-bodied female, I have quietly allowed myself to gain from racism, homophobia, ableism and other oppressions all the while thinking in my head that I did not stand for them. In the system we live in every white person benefits from racism. Every straight person benefits from homophobia. Every able-bodied person benefits from ableism.
A new phrase called “check your privilege” has cropped up on the internet and other media. Checking your privilege is hard. It is hard for me. As I worry about college loans and how to pay my rent or buy food it is hard to see the privileges that I have. However, the simple fact that my skin is white makes me privileged. The simple fact that I am cis-gender makes me privileged. The simple fact that I am able-bodied makes me privileged. My parents went to college. My grandparents were white. No one in my family was ever a slave. No one in my family ever experienced oppression under Jim Crow. No one in my family was ever forced off their land. None of my male ancestors were ever prohibited from going to school. No one in my family has faced violence because of their skin color. I do not face a fear of being unfairly incarcerated. I am more likely to get a job because my name does not “sound black.” I undoubtedly attended a better public school then students who grew up in a predominantly minority community. I have benefited from centuries of privilege. I benefit from privilege today.
In the wake of the publication of The Forum’s article entitled “Westminster Community Confronts Diversity and Inclusion on Campus,” minority students at Westminster were rightly angered and hurt. The article failed to address the oppression and lack of inclusion that many students of color, disabled, Queer, Trans ect. feel at Westminster. The article compared the discomfort of some white Christian students to the systematic oppression that faces historical minorities.
Someone said to me “where are the allies?” It was a valid question. Plenty of students changed their profile pictures to rainbows when gay marriage was made legal. Many students proudly claim that Black Lives Matter. Yet none of these students were standing up and saying that they thought there was something wrong with the version of diversity expressed in The Forum. I have been guilty of every one of these things. I have changed my profile picture to a rainbow. I have proudly claimed “Black Lives Matter.” I have claimed that I stand for Planned Parenthood. Yet what have I done? The answer is nothing. My privilege allows me to walk away from these issues. I am not negatively affected. When students decided to protest at the faculty meeting on campus, I shrunk away claiming work and other responsibilities. I was wrong.
Today I am doing something, and I hope that other students at Westminster College who are not members of minority groups will also stand up and do something. Silence means you agree. Silence means you do not think there is a problem with diversity at this school just including white Christian religions or students from out of state. Silence means you are complicit with systems of oppression, racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism ect. Racism does not end until white people stop being racist. Sexism does not end until men stop being sexist. Homophobia does not end until straight people stop being homophobic. Ableism does not end until able-bodied people stop being ableist. Minorities cannot be the only ones speaking up and doing something. Inaction is not good enough. Silence is not good enough.
It is not enough to say simply that diversity is one of our core values at Westminster. President Morgan claims that Westminster has many programs that connect our students with “heterogeneous populations in our community.” While that is all well and good, that does not change the fact that the population of Westminster continues to be almost exclusively white and middle to upper class. Helping in our community does not make us diverse and does not make the diverse populations on our campus feel welcome.
It is unacceptable that our school is without a Diversity Center and director. It is unacceptable that there has been no one listed on the diversity webpage as a staff contact for over a semester. It is unacceptable that certain areas of campus are not accessible to students with physical disabilities. It is unacceptable that the administration is not actively tracking diversity among students. It is unacceptable that more scholarships are not offered to students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. It is unacceptable that the administration is actively recruiting LDS students and not students from historically oppressed backgrounds. It is unacceptable that as a non-profit Westminster seems more concerned with money then with the welfare of its students. It unacceptable that some in the administration simply view students from out of state as diverse. It is unacceptable that the administration and President Morgan have not responded to students’ unhappiness last December with concrete plans of action.
President Morgan seems to think this will be swept under the rug and forgotten. Those who still do not feel welcome at Westminster have not forgotten. All students at Westminster should not forget. I do not wish to speak for anyone. Only to ask Westminster students to stop and listen to the concerns of their peers. To stop, raise your voice and demand change.