Racism at Fredonia

“The social media post provoked considerable anger and hurt because for many, it was just one more sign of an atmosphere of inequity and unwelcome on campus and in the community . . . I am hearing very clearly that people of color and their allies are tired of forums and discussion, tired of trying to educate others, tired of what feels like an increasingly hostile climate at a predominantly white institution.” ~ Fredonia President Ginny Horvath in a statement to the campus on Monday

Apart from auto-posting my daily blog I do not use social media, so I don’t know what the content of this racist post was.

I do know that social media has polarized us, creating billions of tiny echo-chambers where each individual escapes to a screen to see content that already agrees with their worldviews. People are having more and more trouble navigating disagreement, and every day it gets a little bit worse.

Silicon Valley promised us that once everyone was connected online it would create a global community. Instead, it’s created millions of tribes that don’t like interacting with each other.

I have no idea what the solution is, but I’m reminded of two statements that Provost Terry Brown made in my interview with her last year (“Fredonia in the Age of Trump: Provost Terry Brown on how the new Presidential administration will affect our campus“):

“Find ways to talk across your differences with your neighbor or a friend that’s civil, where you listen to one another. It’s so hard now because it feels so personal. It’s hard to have those kinds of conversations. That’s why we need faculty who are committed to creating the freedom of their students to speak their minds, even if the perspective is unpopular. As faculty we need to work extra hard now on that, because it’s a very volatile time.

[…]

I believe salvation comes from the relationship between you and me. No matter what the technology, this is what matters — our humanity.”

These statements are somewhat out of context–Brown and I were discussing diversity of political opinion rather than racial diversity–but the idea of engaging discomfort in a constructive way still holds.

Thank you to the people on college campuses across the United States who continue working to make a university education accessible to everyone.

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