In light of the recent rise in nationwide discussions on race and political correctness, it would be negligent to reflect on Bowdoin’s racial and bias incidents without broadening my scope. Many other schools are having the same conversations that we are now having. Most notably, both Yale University and the University of Missouri have erupted in racial tensions, protests and debate.  

Much of the uproar at Yale was sparked by accusations that Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity turned black women away from a party, asserting that the party was for “white girls only.” Heavy backlash ensued and was quickly exacerbated by an unrelated incident in which Erika Christakis, associate master of Silliman College, sent an email to students in response to a campus-wide email urging students to be conscientious while planning their Halloween costumes. Christakis questioned whether the original email was an attempt to censure and prohibit students’ abilities to “to be a little bit obnoxious ... a little bit inappropriate.” 

Yale students immediately challenged Christakis’ email because many felt Christakis made light of actions that strip students of color of a welcoming and inclusive space. Students held a “March of Resilience” as well as a number of smaller protests. Unsurprisingly, much of the “open” dialogue occurred on Yik Yak. 

The current state of affairs at the University of Missouri (or “Mizzou”), is nothing short of horrifying. On October 10, in response to a lack of administrative action following the continuous use of racial slurs, a coalition of black students held a protest during the university’s homecoming parade. Video footage shows the crying protesters being forcibly removed as President Tim Wolfe sat idly by. Wolfe made no statement following the incident, leading to the swift spread of unrest. 

This unrest peaked this past weekend, when the Mizzou Tigers football players announced that they would not play until Wolfe resigned. He did so on Monday. The most terrifying part of this debacle came as more and more white students became enraged over Wolfe’s resignation, as well as the negative attention their school began receiving because of it. On Tuesday night, threats directed at black students surfaced on Yik Yak. The most terrorizing of these messages read, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see,” “Tomorrow Mizzou will really make national news,” and “Fantastic. #deathtomonkeys.” 
From what I have heard on our own campus, some people feel that Mizzou and Yale’s problems put Bowdoin’s issues into perspective—and in a way, they do. However, it is important to realize that these institutions’ crises serve as proof that problems can and will escalate rapidly. 

Some students are quick to label the claims of students of color—issues and problems that they can never fully understand—as ludicrous or dramatic. It is this mindset, the one behind responses such as “get used to it” and “the real world doesn’t care,” that lead to the terrifying situations we’re seeing at schools like Mizzou. Fostering the idea that the discomfort of minorities is not as important as the fun of the majority creates an environment in which minorities are devalued. This can affect minorities’ perceptions of themselves, but even more detrimentally, the majority’s perception of them. Blatant racism such as “white girls only” parties and “#deathtomonkeys” are the direct result of the majority devaluation of minority bodies. 

I am not saying that I predict Bowdoin is headed towards racially exclusive parties or rampant death threats. I recognize that our situation is milder, but the situation still stands. The most dangerous part of our current issue is the ignorance and complacency of many people on this campus. It is disheartening that students at an elite institution are responding to attempts to better the minority student experience with quips about “the real world.” This complacent attitude stifles progress and should not be present at a college that is supposed to be producing our future leaders. 

 I believe that all of us are aware that our campus is not the real world. We live in a bubble that is impenetrable to many “real world” issues. If we know and even embrace the fact that the real world’s problems and rules do not apply to us, why are we so quick to disregard that bubble when issues of race arise? If this is truly a place that allows students to shape their own experiences within the safety of a hand-picked community, why aren’t students free to demand that that community remain an inclusive and comfortable environment for all of its inhabitants?

It has become alarmingly clear that Bowdoin’s tensions are much, much bigger than Bowdoin; yet, some still choose to pretend that none of it is happening. This inaction is made possible due to a false belief in irrelevance. Many students feel that these problems don’t fit into their world and to those people, I say: you are wrong. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, your friends have been affected. Your teammates have been affected. Your awkward dance floor make out from last weekend might have been affected. You yourself may be able to put on blinders and ignore what is happening both on campus and throughout the nation but you’re not as far removed as you think you are. 

We must stop alluding to “the real world” as a means of disregarding the emotions and concerns of our students. We must stop comparing our campus’ issues to those of others for the sole purpose of disregarding our own. Students at Bowdoin have the tools to leave this place after four years, go into the “real world,” and change it. By being complacent, we inch into a downwards spiral and accomplish absolutely nothing. You have the tools. Be present and use them.