Let’s Confer

To my friends in English 542AA, my colleagues who wrote in last week’s Phillipian in response to my January 22 Letter to the Editor and to readers who have observed this dynamic over the last two weeks, I sincerely ask, what should we do now? We are experiencing the challenges, the turbulence, the interpretations and misinterpretations, the unevenness of knowledge, the differences of opinion and the unavoidable ignitions of passions that are always associated with attempts to discuss matters of race. Such is the case whether the focus is affirmative action, class, privilege or who can or cannot be racist. I have had the great privilege of teaching courses on racism, as well as race, class and gender, for years now. In fact, I have used some of the very same materials my critics used to refute what they perceived as my position. As such, I know that it is possible to arrive at a place where all parties feel heard, enlightened and empowered to understand this most complicated area of human life (encompassing history, sociology, psychology, science, economics, linguistics and philosophy) and to go forward in a manner that diminishes the terrible prevalence and impact of racism, however we may define it. I worry, however, that without the benefit of the term-long graduate course format we are prevented from getting to a salutary destination and are instead limited to a couple of laps around the bumper car cage. In the end we see that we haven’t traveled very far at all, but rather have only accomplished a few perhaps well-targeted bumps, spent some time all jammed up and struggled the whole time to maneuver in productive directions. Do you think we might be able to, as so well put by instructors Curci, Housiaux and Jones in their letter, “…return to a conversational model in which listening should balance our need to argue a point?” The “conversation on race” periodically called for in this country is never going to be an easy one, but it is one that can be conducted effectively if we are willing to hang in there with one another. We don’t have the luxury of a term-long course on just this topic, but maybe we can take a couple of steps is a good direction. I am grateful to have learned that our Philomethean Society plans to provide a forum on race related issues sometime in the near future. I hope those of us who believe that a civil, constructive and connective conversation on race is possible will try to attend. If you have other ideas about how we can achieve good dialogue in this area, I welcome them. If our interest in this topic has run its course, that’s OK too. Only so much space in our brains, only so much time in a day. Peace, Carlos Carlos Hoyt is the Associate Dean of Students