Trinity Faces History: 2020 Race Relations on Campus at Summit

Katie Cerulle ’22

Features Editor

This weekend, 60 members of the Trinity community attended an online summit entitled: “Exploring the Historical Roots of Racial Inequity: Towards an Antiracist Community.”

The summit was orchestrated by members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office who partnered with the organization Facing History and Ourselves. Before the summit, members were asked to complete activities designed to begin the process of introspection and create a community between participants. This created a foundation for members to feel comfortable participating in intricate conversations about our constructed understanding of race. 

The summit was split into large group style lectures to introduce topics, then students were placed into community groups of about ten to 15 members. These were designed to induce more intimate conversations about the topics that were discussed in the larger Zoom room. In addition to the smaller community Zoom group, each participant also had access to a group webpage called a Padlet, interactive discussion forums that were also used to debrief tough topics. Journaling in order to individually respond was encouraged by mediators.

The large lectures covered a range of topics, ranging from historic information to how to be better community members at Trinity. The topic of whiteness was addressed during the first day. The programming addressed the topic of whiteness head on, clarifying that the concept does not necessarily refer to white people. Instead, it addresses the malleable idea of whiteness over time, something that has changed throughout time and in different societes. 

Participants learned that whiteness has its own narrative of privilege, norms, culture and values. These values and ideals determine who is white. Whiteness manifests itself into the dominant culture that is justified by the meritocracy. This idea of whiteness and white privilege was explained as a moving sidewalk. Even if you stop walking, your privilege will continuously be bringing you forward. In defense of the statement that white people also deal with hardship, which was addressed as an obviously valid claim, these hardships cannot be attributed to their race.  

Another facet of the discussion that many participants latched onto was the debunking of this colorblind ideology. Many people say they simply do not see color, in order to prove their alliance with the movement. However, while this statement was said to be going in the right direction of acceptance, it does not mitigate white privilege. In other words, not seeing color fails to address the structural changes that need to be addressed within our society. It also detaches the personal culture and values of the person you are addressing if you strip them of their racial background.  

The summit ended with discussing the difference between being nonracist and antiracist. Being anti-racist is described as being an avid activist for changing policy or supporting members of the BIPOC community. As the program explained, anti-racist sentiment can take the form of protesting, educating family or friends and taking your own privilege into account. 

Facing History and Ourselves challenged members of the Trinity community to consider their own backgrounds and identities that greatly shape their experiences on campus. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plans to continually offer programming on these issues.

1 Comment

  1. If this report is an accurate account of the online summit, students and faculty should be disturbed by the promotion of pseudo-scientific and thoroughly reactionary racialist conceptions by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, which is a branch of the Trinity College administration. Based on this report, it would appear that Trinity has totally embraced and incorporated into its institutional credo and policy-making process the intellectually fraudulent and socially regressive categories of critical race theory. The concept of “whiteness” was employed uncritically as the basis of the discussion at the on-line summit, as if the legitimacy of this brainchild of post-modernist academics is beyond dispute.

    The report includes the following astonishing declaration: “Participants learned [!] that whiteness has its own narrative of privilege, norms, culture and values. These values and ideals determine [!!] who is white.” How should one even begin to theoretically unpack this nonsense? Deriving [falsely] the structure of society from race, those who “orchestrated” the summit then turn around and proceed to derive racial identity [“who is white”] from “values and ideals.” All false theories inevitably abound in the most glaring contradictions.

    The summit leaders, according to the report, denounced “not seeing color” as a grave error: It “detaches the personal culture and values of the person you are addressing if you strip them of their racial background.” Regardless of the intentions of the summit orchestrators, this statement effectively makes racial identity the determinant of culture and values. The Nazi theoretician Ernst Krieck, expressed a very similar idea in his 1934 essay “The Racial-Völkisch-Political Conception of History”. He wrote: “Race manifests itself in the will, the outlook, and the worldview in accordance with the racial hierarchy of values.”

    In calling attention to the reactionary content of the conceptions advanced at the online summit, I am drawing, at least partly, on what I learned as a student at Trinity a half century ago, when I attended lectures by the brilliant historian Philip Bankwitz. His dissection of the theories of Count Gobineau, the father of modern race theory, was an intellectual tour de force. I have no doubt that Professor Bankwitz — who fought against the Nazis in World War II — would be appalled by what is being palmed off as progressive social policy by the Trinity administration. I suspect that a good number of present-day faculty members oppose and resent the Trinity administration’s promotion of intellectual charlatanry. They should make their views known.

    According to the report, the online summit “challenged members of the Trinity community to consider their own backgrounds and identities that greatly shape their experiences on campus.” I would urge students to forego this “challenge.” Rather than wasting their time on contemplating the color of their navels, students should direct their attention to fighting the government’s herd immunity response to the pandemic, opposing the vast concentration of wealth in the richest five percent of society, and demanding an end to America’s brutal wars of aggression. If students really want to end racism, they should take up the fight for social equality and the unity of all working people.

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