BC Ignites Speech: Adriana Mariella
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The following speech was given by Adriana Mariella, A&S '14, at BC Ignites on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. It has been edited for formatting purposes only.
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said that he wished for a nation in which people would not be judged by “the color of their skin” but by the “content of their character.” He hoped for a nation that would look beyond color and look to what matters about a person. Then, he was dealing with a different type of racism than the kind we have at BC. Here, it is not racism like the one King dealt with during the Civil Rights movement, it’s not a hatred issue or a supremacy issue; it is a problem that revolves around assumptions. The assumption that I-know-that-you-must-be-(x characteristic)-because-you’re-(x race) and you must think (x characteristic) about me, because I’m (y race).
It is these types of assumptions that I think make us hesitant to reach out to others, makes us unwilling to do so. I don’t think it’s truly the color of someone’s skin that divides us, it is the belief set that we associate with that color, and the attitudes we assume others have toward us.
I’ll give some examples.
It has been my experience that often simply because I’m white, I feel as though I’m associated with an elite, rich culture, of which I am not a part, and I assume that AHANA students think that I am a part of such a culture because that’s the idea that we are fed at this school. As a result, I am hesitant to try to break into a friend group of all AHANA students, especially when I think they think I’m an elitist. Now I might be wrong, I don’t know what the experiences of all AHANA students have been at this school, they might have been treated rudely in the past or they may not feel that assumptions are the true problem, but with the AHANA students that I know on an individual level, these kinds of assumptions don’t happen because my AHANA friends know me, and I know them for who they are and we should strive toward that kind of judgment toward individuals we don’t know personally. In bigger groups, however, I feel unwelcome, and I’m sure AHANA students feel that way sometimes, too. Take, for example, when I was a freshman, I didn’t think that I was allowed to go to the ALC Ball, though I knew everyone was invited, I felt like I wouldn’t be welcomed, that it was an event for AHANA students, by AHANA students.
This isn’t the BC community that we want, but it is the one that has been developed by our efforts at promoting diversity. It is the duty of the whole population to judge people based on the content of their character, as King said, not on the color of their skin alone. To do that, I think we have to make some changes.
First, I think we should eliminate the use of the AHANA label.
It’s inherently divisive; it’s a label on a group of people, it automatically makes them different. If we want to create a streamlined community, we have to identify people by something other than their race, as King wanted us to. While I agree that we should always keep the needs of AHANA students in mind, having separate receptions and seminars for AHANA students, and putting them into a special group, divides our campus and can cause a lot of unjustified resentment.
The AHANA label served a purpose when it was created—to make sure that the small community of AHANA students that existed at BC felt listened to, attended to, and welcomed into the community. Now, however, when there is a much larger population of AHANA students, it no longer serves that purpose, in fact it probably does more harm than good.
Going beyond just that, I think that the ALC should be better integrated within the UGBC. Although it is part of UGBC already, I think that a goal for it in the future would be downsizing it and having some sort of AHANA representative. This would better represent the kind of BC that we’re moving toward and striving for. Though AHANA students have a smaller voice on campus because they only make up 25% of our population, and I don’t want to minimize the definite need for an AHANA representative to make sure that that voice remains heard, I think that we should and could create a BC where that voice doesn’t need a whole council, where we’re all equal people, working for a common goal, with each other, for each other, without labels and without divisions.
Finally, we have to educate freshmen differently. We can’t put the idea in their head before they get here that we have a diversity “issue” by focusing so much on race. We have to show them, by example, that we all go to ALC Showdown, that we all enjoy a good Sexual Chocolate show. If this is the community that we want to have, we have to be the first to live it, and that goes for everyone. We have to show that we don’t associate based on race.
While these changes won’t be immediate, and we won’t magically change our diversity “problem” overnight, these are the kinds of conversations we need to have. We can’t keep trying to fix the problem without addressing each other, we can’t keep dancing around the real issues. I’ve said a lot of things that a lot of people at BC are thinking but are afraid to say. As offensive or as gritty as they may seem, it’s the real situation here. While I know I am not alone in my sentiments, it is still difficult to speak about race openly at BC because we are so politically correct, afraid of it, and don’t want to address it. We have to have candid discussions like the one we’re having today.