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Making Race A Campus-Wide Topic

jayah's picture

My freshman year at Bryn Mawr, there was a large controversy within the African American and Latino community. Bryn Mawr College decided not to renovate Perry House, which is home to three of the infinity groups on campus. Sisterhood, Mujeres, and BaCaSO decided to form a Perry House coalition and speak out about the issue that deeply affected them, us. We tried to involve the whole community, however there was resistance.

One day, I was in the room with two of my roommates, both were white. They must have forgotten that I was in the room or a part of Sisterhood infinity group, for they spoke about the issue. One roommate said, “So what do you think about the whole Perry House thing?” My other roommate responded by saying, “ well, there isn’t a Turkish house, so why should there be a house for them, they aren’t special.” They both laughed. My other roommate responded saying it didn’t really relate to her so she had no opinion, and when they finally noticed that I was I the room, they said, “but it is sad they are closing it down.” I then laughed, but only because of their facial expressions when they finally noticed me sitting at my desk.

This incident made me think about the community of Bryn Mawr community as a whole. Were the people who were not affected by the closing of Perry house willing to learn why it was so important to the three infinity groups? Or were they just closed-minded? Did the Bryn Mawr community think that the three infinity groups were “special” just because they had this house on campus? Did they know the history behind this house and why we tried to make it such a big deal? Did they want to know? 

I then began to look at a larger picture: Race. Bryn Mawr does not talk about race amongst the whole community too much, and it is an issue on campus. It is swept under the rug, when it needs to be a campus wide topic. People should be able to express concerns and feelings without feeling victimized or feeling as if they are in the wrong for expressing her feelings. The college needs to have more racial discussions because it does affect the community.


jccohen's picture

talking about race


I remember the Perry House issue last year well of course, but it's interesting and disturbing to realize how many of these kinds of more personal encounters occurred as a result of that more public event... and I think part of what you're getting at here is that this kind of incident makes it quite clear that more dialogue about race on this campus is needed, actually is crucial.  Also, this story relates to the issue of 'joking' that we touched on in class the other day - clearly what made your roommates laugh is quite different from what made you laugh, and in both cases the laughter is complex and actually sounds like kind of a substitute for other kinds of communication...  Where/how do you see further dialogue on this crucial topic as possible on this campus?