A lack of minorities affects everyone at Kenyon
College administrators around the country should not equate having the right number of faculty members with Ph.Ds and having the right overlap schools with having a certain percent of students of color. But in many instances, they each weight the same.
At Kenyon (and other predominantly white institutions around the country), students of color make up a slim percentage of the population. We are hitting certain metrics for our admissions brochures, but this effort should be only the start. If it is not, we reinforce a subconscious idea: Students of color exist as symbols of exposure for white students. Proponents of increased diversity claim educating people of color ultimately betters these individuals’ communities, but to recognize this point only is to miss a much larger one. Diversity is important for the majority of students, not just those of color.
Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins discusses “interlocking oppressions” in Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought. She is referring to black women as a doubly marginalized group and how this intersectionality primes black women to seek sweeping, immediate solutions that work for more groups than just our own. Specifically, we recognize equality for women will not help black women if we don’t also achieve equality for black people. The interlocking oppressions in many of our backgrounds — due to race, class, physical limitation and/or gender — mean we are better equipped to handle abuse from fellow students, faculty, and others on campus and beyond. In terms of Kenyon specifically, this enables us to broach conversations of campus culture differently.
Many conservative pundits have targeted safe spaces. The problem is we can’t even attack that notion fairly when the power differential isn’t addressed. We can’t actively assess who feels safe because the minute pool of students of color remains the same size from year to year. This disconnect was made prominent this past year when the University of Missouri’s students voiced outrage at racist incidents on their campus. In one instance, students were harassed and shoved in front of their university president, with the offenders suffering no consequences. If we are nowhere near the majority in institution size and unable to be taken seriously when our physical beings are endangered, only increased representation on campuses can help.
It is not enough to improve one group’s visibility through admissions at predominantly white colleges. If our colleges are supposed to prepare us for the future, we should represent what we want our future to look like. Doing so will improves the situation of all groups, including white students. The true criteria of any admissions brochure should be whether this is a place where traditionally oppressed groups can convene in larger numbers with white students and enter into freer dialogues promoting social equality and progress.
Channa Childs ’19 is undeclared from Little Rock, Ark. Contact her at email@example.com.