The Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC), in collaboration with 21 other BC organizations, held an event on Thursday entitled “Let’s Get Real: A Conversation About Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality @ BC” in Eagle’s Nest. Andy Petigny, the associate director of the BAIC, led the event.
To start off, he made clear that the event was not intended to be a town hall meeting, nor a class. Rather, it was meant to be an opportunity for students to discuss issues that are often not discussed, meet students who are also interested in these issues and learn about their experiences, and create a stronger community at Boston College.
Students were first asked to form groups with other people whom they did not previously know, and then within these groups, talk about their experiences with discussing issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality on campus.
“Really receive and understand what [the other person] is talking about and what they’re saying,” Petigny said.
Students were then asked to discuss these experiences with the entire group. Although a wide range of responses were given, many expressed common ideas that despite conversations about these issues on campus being uncomfortable, they were important to have in order to learn from one another, and that the more conversations they have had about these issues, the easier they have become.
“I feel like here at BC [issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality] are not talked about enough, unfortunately, just because I think people get very uncomfortable,” said Michael Thomas, MCAS ’19. “They don’t want to offend anyone.”
Thomas, a student from Brazil who went to an international school, explained that talks like this one help make people feel less uncomfortable because everyone comes with a common goal of wanting to open up.
“Coming here really took me out of that bubble and really, like, slapped me in the face,” Thomas said. “That made me grow as an individual, and I feel like if other people are able to get out of their bubble, get out of their comfort zones … then we’ll all grow together.”
Petigny showed a short video during which an array of BC students from different backgrounds and identities described their experiences with not fitting into the mold of the “typical BC student,” whom they described as someone who usually is “white,” “affluent,” and “has access to social and cultural capital.”
The film sparked a conversation in which students discussed their own experiences with being part of isolated groups on campus. Students expressed concerns over there being a lack of minority students and faculty in classrooms, judgments that arise from portrayals of marginalized groups in the media, and feelings that BC’s administration should take a harder stance in addressing issues relating to race and sexuality.
The attendees were asked to fill out an “Identity Oppression Chart” in which they reflected on their own identifying characteristics, such as their race or sexual orientation, and placed the identities on a spectrum of being perceived as more “dominant” or “subordinate” in the United States.
Students discussed how they can use their “dominant” identities to interrupt bias in their community, many expressing that they believe each individual has a responsibility to use whatever points of privilege in their life they have to bring about change.
Petigny emphasized to the students that this event was meant to empower them. He encouraged them to try to make an impact themselves, rather than wait for the leaders in the leaders in their community to do something.
“Major changes have to start from students, and you all do have the power,” Petigny said. “If you start talking about different issues that you care about, things will definitely change. Hopefully you start seeing some colleagues, some peers, some allies in this space here.”