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Not a post-racial society

Patrick Gill | Sunday, February 26, 2012

In recent days, both the Black Student Association and the African Student Association have been the targets of racially motivated crimes. The nature of these transgressions? Placing fried chicken wings in the LaFortune mailboxes of both organizations. When they hear about this, many Notre Dame students will likely react with exasperation. “It’s just a joke!” people might say. “A joke in poor taste, but a joke all the same.”

I disagree. The coordinated nature of the events and their deliberate timing (they come right in the middle of Black History Month) indicate that these were well thought-out incidents with a clear intent — to perpetuate crass racial stereotypes. These events also indicate something greater: We do not live in the post-racial society that many would like to think we do. As long as racial stereotypes exist, so do racial tensions.

We, the students of this University, need to recognize this fact and be more honest about it. There needs to be more open, candid dialogue on these important issues. Writing from the perspective of a white, middle-class student, I know that these are not issues that many of us think about much. I also know that, even when reminded of them, they are not issues we want to think about. But Notre Dame should not hold itself to the low standards set by the perpetrators of these crimes. In order to demonstrate that we reject this kind of behavior, we must first acknowledge that it exists.

Initiating such dialogue amongst all students would be a small step, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction. Only by making this first move can we begin to move beyond such incidents and create a welcoming environment for all students. Maybe then we could get to the real work of tackling racial misunderstanding and discrimination.

Patrick Gill


Alumni Hall

Feb. 26