According to the College’s mission statement, “Kenyon maintains a deep commitment to diversity. Kenyon today strives to persuade its students to those same purposes.”
If that is our true mission as an institution of higher education, the events that led to the “You are not a N-Word” open letters, sent via email to the student body, and the subsequent sit-in protest in Peirce Dining Hall on Wednesday night show that we have failed. We have failed as an institution to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our students of color, and our black students in particular.
It is one thing to say that we are committed to diversity on this campus, but it is an entirely different thing to proactively and consistently work to build a campus culture that provides support for each and every student, not just those who are white students. We have failed to do so.
Though these recent demonstrations on campus may have been influenced by a specific event, they point to an ongoing problem of systemic racism at Kenyon. If you are reading this, and you think because you are not a student of color that this doesn’t affect you, it does. If you are reading this, and you think of yourself as an ally to students of color on this campus, then it is your responsibility to right these wrongs.
Ending racial violence and systemic oppression, whether in the form of racial slurs or other micro and macro aggressions, is not the responsibility of those who are directly hurt by these insensitivities. Ending this hurt and suffering is the responsibility of those who have contributed to the culture that permits these acts, i.e. white students on this campus. Everyone, including those at this publication, is culpable; no one is blameless.
To address the harmful culture we have created on campus, we must listen more attentively to our peers of color. We must be open to recognizing how we contribute to this toxic environment instead of being defensive or resistant when told how we do so; we must be vigilant of the effects our words and actions have, and work to counteract the harm they often produce.
It is time that our fellow students are made to feel at home, and we have an obligation to make sure that this campus lives up to its mission statement.
The staff editorial was written this week by the executive editors of the Collegian, editor-in-chief Bailey Blaker ’18 and managing editor Lauren Eller ’18. You can contact them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.