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Ellie Frazier, MSS Intern

Reflection #8: Molly Secours on Race Relations
Last week, I got to attend a talk called “Whispering Black” by writer and
filmmaker Molly Secours. She talked rather candidly about her personal journey of
recognizing her white privilege, and how her perspective on race relations has
shifted over the years. While this wasn’t the first time I was hearing someone speak
like this, a few of her personal encounters still resonated with me. And what is more,
there is a good chance that for many people in the audience, this was their first
time grappling with the concept of systemic racism, and hopefully feeling the
personal responsibility to contend with their own biases to figure out how they can
dismantle racism in their own spheres of influence. I was pleasantly surprised that
Chi Phi fraternity hosted this event, and I was encouraged by the number of Greek
affiliated students came out (despite a concurrently running major event, Greek
Sing). More students need to begin choosing to attend events like this, rather than
consistently choosing to attend things with the sole purposes of entertainment
value and/or personal gain. Recovering (or perhaps laying the initial foundation for)
positive interracial relations on this campus starts with all students challenging
themselves to extend empathy to those they perceive as different. From my
observations of Bucknell, which are consistent with the literature on PWIs and
establishing campus diversity groups, white males who are Greek affiliated are often
absent from conversations like this about race. The fact that Chi Phi made the effort
to not only educate themselves but also bring others from the Bucknell community
in to partake in this challenging dialogue is definitely a step in the right direction,
and I hope that more fraternities will follow their lead in sponsoring similar
programming.

Lewis-Charp (2003) argues for multicultural and antiracist education for all
students, and one specific method they pose for educators as they strive to
integrate multicultural content into the curricula is to present the positions and
personal experiences of antiracist whites. In doing this, Bucknell could “help end the
dichotomous ‘us versus them’ character of much of the dialogue on race. Providing
young people with white antiracist role models can also help persuade students of
all backgrounds that whites have the potential to be powerful allies to people of
color.” I think it was very timely, therefore, for Molly Secours to come speak about
her experiences in order to draw more of the white majority into the conversation.
Many students probably felt less intimidated and more connected to her perspective
as a white person who has engaged in race dialogues. Lewis-Charp offers that white
students’ fear of inadvertently saying something ignorant in the presence of
students of color can be a barrier to them entering the conversation at all. A
potential way to address this could be establishing times and places for white
students to have conversations within racially homogenous groups. Conversations
could be led by trained faculty and students, give students the opportunity to
openly express themselves without fear of being judged, challenge students with
prompts aimed to illuminate personal biases, and equip white students with tools to
then productively take that conversation outside the initial group to racially
heterogeneous groups.

Additional Notes from Molly Secours’ Talk:
-Molly Secours talked about her own story of growing up in upstate New York,
thinking that because everyone knew and accepted the only black person in town
that racist attitudes had not pervaded her community… but especially the ways that
she talked about black people when they were not around spoke volumes about her
implicit biases and discomfort with people of color.

How do you start someone else’s awakening to their privilege? Questionnaire of 12
prompts inspires whites to really recognize and reflect on their privilege, rethink
what they think is “natural,” perhaps worked for… is it really a meritocracy? Or is
there something bigger, structurally, that we must attend to and shed light on for
others? Whites must put on their own oxygen mask; they do not need to be the
savior of people of color… that’s not what people of color are asking for.
Practical step for the university must include curriculum change, e.g. mandatory
African American history course… supported by Critical Race Theory
-break down the approach of ahistoricism and thinking that racism only exists
and must be confronted at an individual level; these issues and social
inequities date back to the founding of our country, the very root of our
American identity
Questions/comments from audience:
-was the WVBU issue “handled”? Secours: responded to, yes, but a done deal? No.
Chi Phi is in a good position to actually make a change… whole student body has
power right now while the administration feels the shame/heat and the need to act,
so students should do something “while it’s hot”
-separatism—why does this phenomenon happen? (“Why Are all the Black Kids
Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”); Secours: natural groupings based on who we
superficially feel safe and comfortable with, but after dialogue happens and there is
more common ground established, the barriers based on superficial categories
naturally break down (e.g. job training)
-separate Af. Am. History course could be problematic—couldn’t we integrate it into
U.S. History? (Secours: create that course first and THEN integrate; encompasses
history of the oppressed as a whole incl. Asian Americans, Native Americans,
Hispanic/Latino Americans, etc.)