Time to clean house

Photo by Rachel Evans

Photo by Rachel Evans

Growing up in a middle-class white family, I had a pretty good childhood. My parents provided me with a private education, and I never really worried that I’d be without a house or food. In fact, one of the biggest things I worried about growing up was the household chores. Being that I had older brothers to maintain the yard, my work was focused indoors with chores like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the carpet and sweeping the tile. Now, in my house, the kitchen table sits on a rug to protect the hardwood underneath; every time I was forced to sweep around that rug, it presented me with a little temptation. Should I lift the rug and sweep out the dust from under it, or should I take the easy option and sweep the dust around the rug right underneath, adding to the hidden filth but making the visible floor look cleaner than ever?

Despite possible consequences, I often took the lazy route, leaving any difficulty for later. I didn’t think of the future, but preferred staying in the present. I’d imagine that I’m not alone in this conundrum of my youth, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you took the same escape route as me. But now we are all finding ourselves in a similar situation, and I pray that this time we can put laziness aside and do what’s right for the future instead of what’s easy right now.

Recently, it became known that a few Calvin students had made the poor decision of writing racist comments and symbols on campus. Following the publication of the event we have been witnesses to a variety of responses, and here I offer my own humble response: we can’t let this be just another aggression that gets brushed under the rug.

A common theme appearing on one side is that this is getting blown out proportion those that are offended, especially minority students, are just overreacting to a bad joke. NO! This is not an overreaction, but rather a long overdue opportunity to address a real problem on Calvin’s campus. By saying this ordeal is an overreaction is to misrepresent it as an isolated event.

But continually, people of color (POC) at Calvin are facing event after event of ignorance and aggression. The only first about this event is that it is the first to get the proper attention. At long last, “Mom and Dad” are finally lifting up the rug to see the accumulated dirt, and we find ourselves with a chance to produce some cleaning and improvement, although it’ll likely involve some embarrassment, confession and hard work to achieve progress.

If we allow ourselves to just sweep this dirt under the rug with the rest of it, we would be failing in our responsibility to the POC at Calvin. It’s easy to act like the fight for justice on campus is a fight for just the POC. After all, many of us don’t personally experience these aggressions, and so we don’t see a fight to be had. Some even have convinced themselves that racism is disappearing, or even reversing, and so those that call for social justice are just more of the “angry minority” that can’t count their blessings.

Are there minority students that are angry? Yes, and with good reason. Despite consistent efforts at implementing change, their voices have been hushed and discredited, and their opinions are boxed up and put aside as just those of more angry people. But we are getting to a point where anger is turning to fatigue it’s been a long fight, with only small steps of progress. When we hush up these events, discredit the calls for justice coming from our fellow students or even try to do a quick sidestep and move on, we continually alienate them and diminish their ability to learn in a safe, communal environment. It’s time we, the white numerical majority, come alongside to tear down the mountains we have built in front of our classmates. It’s time we pull back the rug and we start cleaning up our own mess.

Will we find some disgusting things under that rug of discrimination? Yes. Will it be a tough process? Yes. Will it be rewarding in the end? Immensely so. POC are integral members of our college, yet consciously and unconsciously we’ve put up barriers that immediately and directly harm them, and indirectly harm the whole community. It is time to wake up stop defending the indefensible, stop justifying the unjustifiable and stop devaluing the invaluable. So everyone find a broom, and let’s join our brothers and sisters of color in sweeping away the injustice we have allowed to collect under our own kitchen rug.