We are intelligent and ambitious students at one of the most rigorous schools in the nation. We take hard classes, we balance these classes with our other commitments, but we seem to be failing to have effective conversation. We try so hard to understand the content in the classroom, yet when it comes to talks about race relations either in America or at Taft, it seems as if many of our peers forget that discussions of identity are meant to be learning experiences. For a large group of privileged white males at Taft, being told that there are racial problems does not serve as a motivation to listen, but rather makes them extremely defensive and often inconsiderate of the experiences of others.
This topic is difficult to acknowledge and awkward to talk about, and in any conversation regarding privilege, it is important to firstly identify your own. I am a white girl who has had innumerable advantages because of this very fact. I am lucky enough to be at Taft, and I feel completely comfortable here, surrounded by kids with the exact same hair as me, the exact same clothes, and almost the exact same background. In spite of the fact that I feel at home at Taft, I recognize that many do not, and that the culture at Taft is not necessarily that which I see through my own perspective.
I can’t pinpoint an exact reason why so many boys at Taft are so defensive of their belief that the Taft community exists only as they experience it. Perhaps they were breastfed for too long by adoring mothers who convinced them that they are the center of the universe. Perhaps too many have made excuses for them and convinced them that school is tailored to girls anyways. Perhaps they are just so used to the idea that the white man can do what he wants and progress by anyone else is a direct threat to them. No matter the reason, I think that it’s unacceptable to look at the face of another Taftie saying that there is a problem, and combatively argue with them. I have never experienced what students of color experience at Taft or in the outside world, so how can I make assumptions about the legitimacy of their experience? We should also acknowledge that since this is arguably the most hot-button topic in the American dialogue right now, the testimony of millions of African Americans adds further legitimacy to the claim that this is a problem.
Not all white males at Taft share in this unwillingness to understand. Many are extremely compassionate and sympathetic. I won’t generalize an entire demographic population at Taft, but I do ask that the white males at Taft who attend UCT meetings and conversations looking to fight, who disregard the experiences of others – who disrespect women either to their faces or behind their backs, and who refuse to accept when they’re in the wrong -to really consider why they’re so close-minded. Why, in a living and learning community, would they accept only their own beliefs as facts? Why do they feel the need to protect an outdated patriarchy that has existed since ancient Rome? Why is the idea of inequality at Taft so outlandish to them? Why are they so convinced that racism is a figment of the imaginations of those oppressed?
To become better at having these conversations, we need to accept our own privilege, and then accept that there are students at Taft who do not share this privilege, and their experience is different because of it. There does not have to be gridlock like that seen at the UCT conversation after the sit in. There can be progress made at Taft for students of color, but it is integral that all students are in support. We can be better, and I hope we will be. And to all of the boys who will call me a “bitch” for writing this, thank you for proving my point.