By Curtis Edmonds
Saturday night was supposed to be a good night for me. I forgot about my obligations, guzzled down wine with a couple of good friends, and climbed into bed around 3 a.m., preparing for a Sunday full of homework. And then I woke up. Right in front of my door, I heard three different voices. One was banging on a hall mate’s door, screaming, “Come out here you f*cking Jew! You are a greedy f*cking Jew. By definition that is what he is! A Jew!”
I wanted to fling open my door and berate them for their behavior. I didn’t care what the “Jew” did to make this guy angry or if he was at all justified in his actions. What I cared about was when it became alright to scream in public that you want to pummel “a f*cking Jew.” More importantly, when did it become alright for a person not to confront you about it?
But I didn’t fling open my door, and I regret that. I was furious with myself for not saying something to this guy. As I went to bed that night, I tried to justify my decision not to say anything. I’m not Jewish, I thought to myself. But I am black, I thought. And if he says that about Jews, what must he think about blacks?
I’m not saying we have card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan walking around Denison. I think we have privileged white men who think they can say whatever they want with no repercussions, and people like me who don’t let them know they can’t.
In April 2006, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that anti-Semitism continues to be a problem on college campuses despite it being the 21st century. The commission reported: “students have alleged patterns of threatening or intimidating behavior, derogatory remarks, vandalism, and the use of Swastikas and other symbols of hatred and bigotry.” The Denisonian reported in February that at least one vandalism-based hate crime last fall was anti-Semitism related.
I have privately been saying to friends for months that Denison needs a mandatory diversity course. While the Power and Justice requirement is great, we know the reality of the situation. Many students take a class such as Issues and Feminism, get the credit, and walk away without truly caring about feminism and women’s issues.
The fact of the matter is, with some maneuvering, a Denison student can graduate without ever hearing terms like “white privilege”. At a school that has documented evidence of hostility toward minority groups (most notably women, Jews, and blacks), it is appalling to me that a class that tackles injustices toward these groups is not mandatory for all students.
A diversity requirement that focuses on marginalized groups in the United States would be eye opening for the kid from the New England small town who has never met a person of color, as well as the kid from the south side of Chicago who has never experienced privilege. Both would learn something about themselves.
More importantly, a diversity requirement is the type of real world preparation that cannot be missed. As this country becomes more and more diverse, our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces cannot escape integration… We can no longer preach tolerance; we have to push education and acceptance.
I’ve taken three race related classes while at Denison, and it has become clear to me that the people that need to be there aren’t there. My current class about race and politics in America is filled with minorities and progressive whites; the anti-Semite is not there and probably avoids similar classes like the plague. He should be in that class, sitting in the front row, facing his prejudice and his privilege.
I’m not saying that a mandatory diversity class will solve everything. But it will solve something for someone.