Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty Years of Service to the Student

Voices

Safe Spaces

Throughout my four years at Kalamazoo College my views on race have changed a lot. It’s been a grueling journey of self-examination and identity crises that will continue on for the rest of my life, which I’ll just have to get better at handling.

Last week, a student wrote an article saying the Intercultural Center should not be a place for white people, but a safe place for students of color. I don’t believe that should be true.

I am a white man, I was born into my numerous forms of privilege, and for that reason I never wanted to engage in public discussion of race on campus because I didn’t want to exert undue power or take away others’ voices. But unless someone kills me tomorrow, I will still exist on this Earth with everyone else that is here, so I don’t want to run or hide or avoid topics like racism and sexism anymore just because they’re difficult.

I’m tired of silence. I want to talk, I am ready to talk, and I’ve had my fill of private discussions. Speaking privately with someone is a good way to learn but speaking publicly allows for the dissemination of opinions and perspectives that can really help create lasting change. I’m ready to be public with the student body, because even though these issues exist globally, how they function on our campus is to some degree unique to our community.

To me, there is no better community-oriented space to do this than the Intercultural Center.

I want, more than anything, for the Center to be a safe place for students of color. First and foremost, that is what it should be. However, I have figured out what I have so far and begun this journey of realizing my role as a white man in this country only because of discussions with both white people and people of color.

The Intercultural Center is an opportunity for us to become one another’s teachers, not because we think we need to, but because we want to create a better understanding of each other for each other. I don’t want that opportunity to be missed.

So I think, as a campus, we should talk.  We should have real talks through wholesome, critical, comfortable, and even difficult discussions. How we as students figure out how to make the Center a safe place for students of color and a safe place for everyone to come together on common ground will be a journey in it of itself, and I have confidence that some great leaders will take the reins and make it happen. However, if this doesn’t happen, and the goals and mentality of the Intercultural Center tend toward the opinions of last week’s piece, I guess I’ll just keep discussing privately about how to not be an ignorant, unaware, white man. But mostly, I would be silent.

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