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Mari

My Message to White Students at FBU

by Mari on February 22, 2017

in Campus Community,College Life,Extracurricular,Organizations, Activities & Events,Our Causes

On Tuesday, February 21st I attended the Black Student Union’s showing of the Netflix documentary called 13th. The thought provoking documentary dove into the problematic issues of racial injustices affecting African Americans within the U.S. prison system. I would highly encourage everyone at Fontbonne to view this documentary. While watching this documentary with only about 15 students, I could not help but wish there was a larger turnout at the event. I understand that this event was not publicly promoted with flyers around campus, but news of the event was spread by members of the Black Student Union. After talking to members of BSU, they hosted two film events last year and had some rude students who interrupted the event by talking during the films. This was interesting for me to learn because that Tuesday that BSU hosted the showing of 13th, I tried to spread word of the event to students.

I tried telling everyone I saw on that Tuesday to come to BSU’s event. Unfortunately, upon telling people, I received an enormous amount of white people shifting uncomfortably in their seats and looking down at the ground. They all gave me a very similar answer, “I have homework.” I have come to a conclusion based on my experience being a freshman at Fontbonne. The faculty and staff at Fontbonne may be actively trying to address issues within the realm of diversity, but our student population has a long way to go. During Fontbonne’s expo event where each student organization is presented to the student population, where do students flock to? From my experience, I see students will go to Dance Marathon, Student Government Association, and the Fontbonne Activities Board. Some of these same students will walk quickly past organizations like Fontbonne International Student Association, Black Student Union, and the Latino Hispanic Union. This observation leads me to question if student organizations put diversity as a priority even if they are not a cultural organization.

If you are involved in any student organizations at Fontbonne, I ask you to ponder over these next questions honestly. Look around at the people in your student organizations, how many people of color are there, and are there any international students? Are the presidents and executive board members of these organizations actively supporting cultural events on campus like the International Bazaar and Diversi-TEA?

If you are a white student reading this, please try to realize that I, being a student of color, have a different college experience than you. I am not attempting to start a fight with anyone, I want to bring this “hush hush,” issue quietly discussed by students of color to light. I want future students of color to feel like they have a bigger platform to discuss issues they are facing at Fontbonne. If you are a student of color who relates to my experience, please reach out to me. We need to have more of these conversations, as uncomfortable as some students might become. I want to hear people’s thoughts about this issue. Do you think of it as an issue? If so, how can we as one campus solve this injustice?

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”-Desmond Tutu

Take care,

Mari

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Samuel Choe February 22, 2017 at 11:37 pm

I’m so glad there are people like you that want to speak about the “hush hush” and sensitive topics. America right now needs to discuss about topics such as race, racism, racial profiling, police brutality, etc. It exists and staying silent is part of the problem.

Mari Mari Torres February 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Samuel, I appreciate you commenting on my blog. Thank you for being open minded with this topic!

Alex Smith February 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for sharing your ideas. While I don’t agree with some of the points you made, I do see the value in presenting the conversation and how people can learn through it. To avoid attempting to understand or listen to diverse viewpoints only further nourishes polarized viewpoints and misunderstanding in a community. Moreover, I was emphatic toward your statements during my initial overview of your post; however, I would like to present some points argumentative points.

The first discussion I want to have with you relates toward your comments about the small attendance of the event and the strategy you took to try to get more people to come. I’m a senior at Fontbonne, so Ive been fortune enough to observe how student activity and school related functions pan out for almost four years now. So this bring me to your first statement associated with going up to white people and asking them to come to the event. A couple things here. One, if this event was truly important to you, why did you wait to the-day-of to start asking people to attend? What if someone you never talked to approached you while walking between classes on Wednesday and said,—“Hey you should come watch a documentary tonight?”— What would your initial reaction and response be realistically? I know most of my friends would naturally be uncomfortable, not because of what you asked but how you asked it.
You made it point to address how white students reacted to your invitation. What did all the African American students say when you asked them to come? What about the foreign exchange students? If only 15 or so students actually attended, the answer is pretty evident…they said no too! I think you should acknowledge that that may be in a result of you asking people to do something the day of. If you don’t give people a heads up, it becomes even easier for them to dismiss an invitation. That ideas translates throughout most cultures and ideologies. That being said, we can move on to what deeper issue contributed to this low attendance?

You suggested that despite facility and institution’s efforts, the student body hasn’t addressed diversity issues to a fitting standard yet. And while I agree the student body, as a whole, can always work toward continuous improvement, they are not to blame for the low attendance of this event. It is not a lack of empathy or respect from the students of Fontbonne, regardless of their color, race, or religion. Rather, it’s the lack of effort and ability of the organizations to stimulate any substantial interests toward events.

Why didn’t the organization as a whole do more to inform the student body? Athletics drive the social sphere of Fontbonne. Did you market at any of the games? Talk to the leaders of different teams? Use Fontbonne’s various social media accounts? Perhaps before putting so much scrutiny on the students, the organization itself you should reflect on what it can do better to inform people about their activities. Is it the students responsibility to remain informed about what different Fontbonne organizations are planning when the organizations themselves don’t adequately promote the event. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most students would say it isn’t their responsibility.

I think it should be noted that many events held by Fontbonne organizations have low percentage attendances (excluding fundraisers) and that this isn’t an isolated attack on any of the cultural organizations at Fontbonne. I don’t remember the last time I saw over 70 students at any Fontbonne hosted event. This may illuminate a bigger problem with our organization’s ability to interpret and adapt to what the majority of their students value and are interested in.

Madaline Farquhar February 23, 2017 at 7:59 pm

I completely stand with you and I am White. Not only have I seen the lack of ANY student involvement in the cultured events I have lived it. When it comes to small groups that are trying to reach out, many wonder away. This blog was made at a good time, now we need to stand with our cultured brothers and sisters and show them that we care. Even if that means simply watching a movie that shows their culture. Many times people only go to these events because of free food. We need to change this, go because you want to support them, not to try a new free food! You may or may not agree with me but, I love how diverse this campus is and do my best to stand by every culture here. All Mari wants is us to show we care, so lets make that change! Thank you Mari for this awesome blog showing you care about getting the cultures together!

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Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.