Racial justice starts with a conversation

By The JustTalks Team

Sabrina Templeton

Biden won! Woohoo! Problems solved.

We wish. 

Voting Trump out of office is just a first step in addressing the extreme structural racism in the United States. In the coming months, we need to hold the emerging administration accountable to moving toward a future that is both just and equitable. A new president of the nation won’t dismantle white supremacy alone; it is the work of every single person on a global level. 

Our work is here, now. None of us are outside the racist structures that shape the ways we relate to our communities and each other. It is deeply uncomfortable to realize how unconsciously affected we are and how many of us are complicit in upholding the structures that perpetuate violence towards our classmates and harm all of us. 

Communal self-reflection is thus a critical foundation for recognizing our shortcomings and addressing them. What must follow is a commitment to creating mutual acceptance and understanding in any environment we are in. 

After the murder of George Floyd and the outcry for equity for Black Americans, many Middlebury students wanted to learn more about racial inequities and find ways to advance racial justice but found that this work can be challenging and burdensome. Conversations around race can be difficult and bring up feelings of guilt, grief, anger, and frustration. 

While these feelings are uncomfortable, they are a necessary experience to begin developing an anti-racist and decolonized mindset. By having these conversations and taking action together, we can lean into the discomfort that the topic of race often brings about. 

The campus community desperately needs to engage with nuanced perspectives around specific aspects of race so we can see how it affects all aspects of our daily lives. One of the best ways to achieve this is by committing to learning from each other and taking a step forward together. We are calling upon the campus community to recognize our biases, to self reflect, and to stand up for marginalized communities. 

It is all too often that BIPOC students on this campus are the ones who have to carve out spaces for themselves. They take on the emotional labor, time, and resources needed to accomplish this. And most programming and initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as the Anderson Freeman Center, the International Students Organization, and First at Midd, are the results of the hard work of BIPOC students. But this work should be a campus-wide effort.

Attending one of the workshops from the current and future JusTalks series on race and privilege can be a starting point in undertaking the self-reflection necessary to dismantle white supremacy and show a true commitment to change. The workshops are structured around specific aspects of the topic of race, engaging with nuanced perspectives that help us see how race affects all aspects of our daily lives. We offer an open space for students to learn from each other and take a step forward together.  JusTalks is an entry point for anyone to engage with these issues, regardless of prior content knowledge. 

Even if you don’t attend JusTalks workshops, there is no excuse for not committing yourself to these conversations, no matter how difficult they are, and no matter how much they demand that we change. The only place cultural transformation can truly begin to take root is within ourselves.

Citlali Aguilera-Rico ’23, Jasmin Animas-Tapia ’21, Raymond Diaz ’23, Jaden Hill ’22, Hannah Laga Abram ’23, Olivia Pintair ’22.5, Olivia Reposa ’24, Kaila Thomas ’21, Selena Valladares ’23 comprise the JusTalks Team.

JusTalks is a student-led program that operates under the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Director of Education for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells works as the advisor and primarily serves as a resource for the student facilitators. 

Upcoming JusTalks workshops that can be fully accessed at go/justalksregister/.