What we have here is a marginalization against students or people of color on the campus of Gallaudet for years. Even back in 1989 when I addressed this to IKJ and a group of people in my speech regarding the diversity problem and marginalization. Today, I have said ever since May 2006 the “Unity for Whom” question because I’ve the seen what the atmosphere was like then and compare that to now which has changed little except there's more awareness. The people of color is still pretty much the same, ratio-wise, a plus 90% mostly white as it was 18 years ago when I started at Gallaudet as a freshman on January 1988.
Kristi Merriweather pointed out in her observation when she wrote a blog piece in DeafDC called "A Fictitious Protest for Fictitious Reasons." She made several salient points on how the recent protest marginalized students of color just because they are in the minority. Healing cannot be done unless we do the "mea culpa" part (it means "my fault") in acknowledging our role, somehow, somewhere, that have made what we are today and where are with Gallaudet University, which is an institution first that serve all deaf and hard of hearing people who may want to be a student someday. Approximately 20% of the people who took the "mea culpa" poll believed that we are all at fault somehow for this protest mess, while the rest of those who voted continue to assign blame at others except for themselves. I said my "mea culpa" many moons ago.
The first step as I said is the "mea culpa" and Noah Beckman finally took the correct step in doing so yesterday in his interview with Newsweek.
Will you write a letter?
Oh, absolutely. I’m guilty of being oppressive and part of that is taking ownership and responsibility. Back in May, when I told a specific group of people that they couldn’t speak in front of the student body [during the initial protests against Fernandes]. It was the black group of students who wanted to speak. …That wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, so I’m definitely guilty of that oppression. At the time my thinking was that I didn’t want to have a message that was confusing.
Many students of color objected to the whole selection process, not just the appointment of Fernandes. Did they get much help from the other protesters?
The white students didn’t do anything to support students of color and work together. [The black students] wrote a very powerful letter, and the board didn’t respond, and the SBG didn’t support them in this process. That must’ve been in November or December—awhile back. So with that, I think the racial differences were clear on our campus. I was guilty of that racist behavior, and it’s not something I’m proud of. So, I think the healing process along those lines is critical. I’ve learned so much since May and with this process, to have a higher level of sensitivity to the various groups on campus, to have respect for students of color and increase the sense of unity.
The uproar started when the final three presidential candidates were announced. Gallaudet’s students of color were concerned that a white candidate with only a master’s degree was included, while a well-respected black candidate, Dr. Glenn Anderson, was eliminated. At the time, some white students said Gallaudet wasn’t ready for a black president. Do you think they were right?
I’d like to say no, but there are some groups of people, small groups of people that have that attitude. It exists on our campus, sadly enough. We’re definitely more than happy to see any qualified individual, person of color or not. The most important thing is to have a person right attitude and the right sense of respect for Gallaudet and who we are as deaf students and in the deaf community, more than anything else.
Racism on campus of Gallaudet University has always been the case and many were constantly side-lined just because they're the minority population. Like many others who were or are also marginalized or pushed aside just because they are different and want to see things to ensure that they, too, are seen as equal participants and receive the same equal communication regardless of background or communication preferences. So, until we hear more "mea culpas" this healing won't go anywhere.
You probably know who those people are.