How’s That Diversity Thing Working Out?

by Carol Iannone

The Smith Alumnae Quarterly of Summer 2008 features “honest talk about race.” Several non-white students were asked their views of how racial issues were being handled on campus and in classes. One, a member of the Smith African and Caribbean Student Association says, “I’ve seen useless committees put together and speeches being made, but no action and no commitment and no honesty.” Another says her sense of community comes mostly from women of color or other marginalized groups, and she is glad for groups such as the Black Alumnae of Smith College and the Association of Latina Alumnae of Smith. She wants more diversity on the faculty and staff, though. A third remarks that professors might ask her views on the the Mideast because she wears a hijab when she’s not even from the Mideast but from South Asia. She questions why professors ask students of color their views, as if they were representing an entire group. She also says that many students have a hard time talking about race and ethnicity. A fourth remarks, ”It’s just really difficult to talk about identity issues when you have a lot of people who come from such different backgrounds and have different levels of awareness. That can be intimidating for a lot of people, so instead of speaking up, a lot of people just don’t say anything for fear of being misrepresented or attacked.”  

Indeed.