Is Hamilton a ‘safe zone’?

By Editorial Staff

The past week has been a trying one for Hamilton. Last Thursday, when Amit Taneja sent out an email advertising the Days-Massolo Center’s event, “Real Talk: A Dialogue about Internalized Racism,” most students probably didn’t even open it. But soon, a single emboldened sentence in the message—“In order to create a safe space, this program is open to people of color only”—turned into the overheard conversation across campus, and down the Hill, and all around the Internet.

For full news coverage of recent events, please see our cover story. Here, we do not seek to summarize what happened after the original email announcement, nor do we desire to point the finger of blame at any one individual or organization for inciting controversy.

While many interpret the current controversy as problematic or even hostile, The Spectator believes the College community should continue to address the important issues being raised above the surface. The initial question of whether having a “safe space” to discuss difficult issues necessitates segregation is crucial. While this problem is often avoided, because most discussions of difficult issues at Hamilton are self-selecting in audience or occur in private among friends, a good rule of thumb for public events is to err on the side of inclusivity. As Student Assembly President Anthony Jackson ’15 said at Monday’s packed SA meeting, “Progress is made by pushing the comfort zone.”

The broader question asked in the last few days, however, is even more important: Is Hamilton a community where everyone—regardless of race, creed or color—feels safe and accepted? When signs that say, “Hamilton is not a safe zone,” wallpaper our campus, what does that mean? The Spectator certainly hopes that Hamilton is a welcoming ground to any person who reaches the top of the Hill, but in light of many comments made in the last week, we understand that the ideal is not always matched by the reality. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard of civility and openness. Moreover, we must remember that diversity is an issue that transcends race. Consideration of the diversity of Hamilton experiences caused by divergent sexualities, socio-economic classes, nationalities and political ideologies is also necessary.

Finally, we hope that the community keeps in mind that the “town hall” meeting scheduled for today at 4:15 p.m. in the Alumni Gym is merely a conversation about how to have a conversation about race. We hope that this discussion is productive and progressive, and that it leads to further enterprising conversations about race relations at Hamilton. Most importantly, we hope that these conversations will actively better our community, to the point where all members feel safe and valued. We applaud the passion demonstrated this past week, whether it involved discussing the issue in the dining hall or distributing signs across campus, and we anticipate that this meeting will not serve as the endpoint. If anything, it should serve as a beginning.


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