Editor's Note: This letter was written and submitted by a group of students that formed in response to the recent discussions about diversity on campus. The group goes by #DiversityIsNotEnough.
Diversity is... not enough.
We are the group of students who stood to the side of the “Diversity Is...” Rally last Monday [April 28] at the PAC [Performing Arts Center.] Many of us were involved in planning the rally and feel that our part of the conversation was not reflected in the march.
We are a diverse group of students from a variety of majors that organized prior to the rally to make signs that critically discussed Bruce Shepard’s blog and racism within Western Washington University. There were about 20 students that stood in front of the PAC and some of us walked in the rally and then joined the group. We had planned to chant, but realized that would be too distracting from the diversity rally. We wanted students from the diversity rally who were looking for a deeper conversation about racism to stand in solidarity with us.
We were asked by a police officer what we were doing there and he threatened to remove us. We tried to make it clear to him that we were a part of the rally, but he still tried to remove us and call for back-up. He also physically placed white staff members and faculty to stand in front of us in order to separate us from the rally and block our signs. After the rally, he thanked white students for showing up and thanked brown and black students for “being good” and “being quiet.”
We want to make it clear that we were not out there in protest of our peers. Rather, we hope to add nuance to the conversations happening on campus in regards to diversity. We hope that administration, faculty, staff, students and community members will be willing to engage critically with this concept. Diversity is not only where one comes from, but how one is treated at Western.
It is our understanding that the diversity rally was intended to respond to the hateful white supremacist group that came to our campus Saturday, April 19. The message that the white-supremacists brought to our campus stated “Diversity=White Genocide.” This was not addressed in the rally. Instead, in response to these hateful messages, participants in the rally wanted to redefine diversity. Some of these messages are detrimental to students of color because they deny the realities of racism on this campus.
Students of color are made to feel like outsiders every day in classrooms, offices, dorms and clubs. We face microaggressions and other forms of violence from individuals and the university.
The racism on this campus is prevalent in the way we were treated at the rally by campus police and white faculty and staff. They cooperated with police to conceal both our signs and bodies from the rally. Instead of feeling part of the Western community, we felt excluded and betrayed.
We challenge Western to think more critically about diversity. Our call to action is for the greater Western community to attend a debriefing of the rally with us on Tuesday, May 13 at 6 p.m. in Fraser 2. We want to discuss President Bruce Shepard’s blog and center students of color when developing solutions for the issues that we face on campus.
We hope to see you there.