On Wednesday night BSU teamed up with SAB and SGA to host “Waking Up White” in Hostetter Chapel. The event was designed to be a discussion starter for white students centered around conversations of racism and privilege.
Annamarie Lively, the PR coordinator for BSU, said that the club was getting questions from white members on how to start conversations regarding race with friends and family, which sparked the idea for this event.
Junior Michael Caswell, a member of BSU, opened the event by sharing that he has witnessed some of his closest friends experience racism, even on our campus. “Ignorance is everywhere,” Caswell said.
The night began with a simulation. Leaders handed a card to each attendee, but no one could view their own card. As we walked around the room, we had to ignore anyone with a two, be friendly with some higher number cards and show respect to face cards. By the end of the simulation, people had a fairly good idea as to what card they had.
The event transitioned into a time for small group discussion. Leaders directed questions regarding where we see racism, and how we react to it. The groups were designed to be safe spaces for students to share their experiences and ask questions. The floor then opened up for groups to share the direction of their conversation with everyone in attendance.
A panel discussion closed the event, with representatives from BSU, SAB and SGA. Junior Toby Doyle acted as a mediator for the event, posing questions to panelists Annamarie Lively, Kelly Shea, Paula Holtzinger, Megan Eaton, Jenny Wooley and Adam Barone.
Shea encouraged students to go outside their usual cliques, and Eaton agreed, urging white students to get involved with multicultural clubs. “It’s gonna be hard,” Eaton said. “You’re going to feel like a minority, but that’s okay.” Wooley added to this, saying that before coming to these events, students need to recognize their own biases.
The conversation took a turn towards talking about white people feeling as though they get blamed for things that happened in the past. Barone said that students don’t need to feel guilty for being born white, and Shea added an insightful comment saying, “if someone is hurting over something that happened 60 plus years ago, I can be apologetic over something that happened 60 plus years ago.”
Sophomore Jordan Sponsler attended the event because he has become more interested in the topic of racial reconciliation. He found the discussion centered around the ‘N-word’ to be enlightening, saying that he realized students of different races don’t share the same experiences, and we need to be aware of our limitations.
Those involved agree that the event is an important step for our campus. Wooley explained that, at a Christian college, people tend to shy away from tough topics like racism and privilege, but she countered by saying, “How are we going to create change if we don’t talk about it?”