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A majority recognition of privilege, prejudice is required for change

Josh Gonzalez (‘18), Just Action Columnist

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Just Action voiced their stance of solidarity with St. Olaf students in a recent statement, saying, “Just Action of Luther College stands with St. Olaf students and peoples both harmed by and concerned about the recent racist incidents in your community.  As a similarly situated historically and predominantly white college, we are dismayed. However, we also understand these issues are historically situated and part of a larger social system in which whiteness is normative and protected and folks of color are always suspect and marked as Other.  We offer you support in working collectively to dismantle the systems of oppression and advantage in higher education and society at large.”

When reflecting on the recent acts of racism at St. Olaf College, I am once again reminded of the current campus climate we face at our own college. Luther, like St. Olaf, is not immune to the institutional racism that plagues this country and the economic, political, and social systems within it.

Thinking about the educational system in particular, issues regarding inclusion need to be at the forefront of everything higher education institutions do. Whether it’s crafting curriculum that engages students in critical conversations regarding common societal issues or implementing policy that promotes purposeful sharing of perspectives, colleges and universities must ensure all students are provided with the least restrictive learning environment.

Establishing this least restrictive environment is not the responsibility of the students. Attending college is an extremely challenging feat within itself. It is the institution’s responsibility to eliminate the added pressures present alongside this feat. However, before this can be done, there must first be a realization and a validation of these pressures.

As a white heterosexual male on this campus, I am privileged enough to not have to deal with these pressures. I do not have to deal with getting stared at on a daily basis. I do not have to deal with people making misguided assumptions of my intelligence or character based on the color of my skin. I do not have to deal with slurs or insults or threats because of how I am viewed by society.

If our campus is ever going to make strides in fostering genuine racial and ethnic diversity, derived from the inclusion of all students, it is going to take the majority on this campus, student, faculty, and especially administration, to recognize the privileges they have and confront them. We cannot unite as a campus until everyone in it is cognizant of the fact that a plethora of people, a plethora of students, are not being treated as equal at this institution.

In order to show our empathy for the situation students face at St. Olaf, which like Luther, is created through the institution’s travesties of social justice, we will be standing in solidarity with them this Friday at 10:50a.m. on the steps of the Center for Faith and Life (CFL). The gathering will take place immediately after Chapel and all are welcome to join hands and show our support to those affected by such atrocious actions.

Signed,

Josh Gonzalez (‘18)

Just Action Columnist

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The student news site of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa