The section I am discussing starts on page 69.

As part of the Diversity Initiatives Self Study, Paula Moore Tabor, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, writes about

1. “How the undergraduate experience for many students of color is less rewarding than it is for their White counterparts,”

2. That “this sense of dissatisfaction lowers the desire of minority alumni to re-engage with Williams, particularly without the support of other graduates of color,”

3. And how “affinity connections after graduation help to promote reconciliation.”


As a current undergraduate, I cannot confirm or deny her basic assumption for (2); anecdotal evidence from graduates, upon the question of whether minority alumni are indeed “less likely” to re-engage with Williams, is welcome.

Of course, this is not really an argument, since 1 and 2 do not lead to 3. There is little evidence cited that these affinity networks in fact help alumni “of color” to feel less indifferent to Williams. Nor is it even argued that this Balkanization is the way to go for the future. We are meant to draw this conclusion on the basis of a few successful race-based alumni reunions.

I believe that Tabor is basically correct about (1) and (2), although her style of argument makes it hard to take these issues seriously. I will comment on a few of the claims that struck me as particularly remarkable. For example:

Both quantitative and anecdotal evidence support the fact that many students of color at Williams are less satisfied with their undergraduate experience than their White counterparts.

Yet, at no point in the report is any such quantitative evidence cited. To take another example:

Assumptions are made by Whites that [students of color] are segregating and “Balkanizing” themselves from Whites, or “don’t like Whites.” The reality is people find comfort in associating with their own kind.

Here in the 21st century, we have an educated and intelligent person presuming that people who share the same race are somehow all of the same “kind.” Skin color is apparently an important determinant of personality, and segregation is acceptable.

Tabor goes on to draw rather racist and ignorant stereotypes about White students at Williams, characterizing them as “people who learn about race and culture via the television sitcom and MTV.” She claims that White students

can graduate from Williams having never increased their breadth of cultural competency, thus limiting them to engaging in an ignorant and faulty belief system throughout their tenure at the College. It is also easy for White students to interact exclusively with other Caucasians, never having to concern themselves with multiculturalism much less celebrate it.

Though Tabor may prefer to view White students through such stereotypes, I see no evidence for this opinion apart from her prejudiced belief in White guilt.

On the one hand, Tabor excuses minority students who self-segregate (they are merely “associating with their own kind”), while, on the other hand, she criticizes the entire body of White students for not celebrating multiculturalism.

There is a patronizing sentiment all through the report which Rudyard Kipling would have recognized. It is the “White man’s burden” to make things aright. Minority students are presumed to be helpless poor depressed victims of the system; they must be supported by the administration and psychologists. White students, on the other hand, must take the responsibility for pluralism into their own hands.

As an example of the majority’s racism, Tabor describes a professor telling a minority student “that she can’t write and he can’t believe she got into Williams.” Note the absence of any actual racism in this example.

I find it most objectionable that Tabor treats Williams as if there are precisely two communities: White and Colored. The underlying assumption seems to be that all “colored” people are homogeneous, and have some deep connection to other “colored” people. Hence,

There are whispers in the dorm room and in the classroom that Juanita doesn’t belong here, and she is only “taking the place of a more qualified White applicant.” There is no psychologist of color on staff when times get tough or enough faculty who are seasoned in cultural competency to make a difference. There are only a handful of faculty and staff of color who are already over-burdened with responsibility

I’m from India. Tabor presumes that a Black psychologist from Chicago who went to Harvard somehow has a more valid perspective on my issues than a White psychologist from the same town and school. Most of the world’s population is non-white (colored). I do not see how lumping Chinese and Indians and Venezuelans and Senegalese together in one group is helpful; nor do I see why any random colored psychologist is a better psychologist for a non-white student.

The claimed whispers about Juanita are, in the precise sense of the term, bullshit. Harry Frankfort defines bullshit as a statement which has no relationship to truth or falsehood, but only seeks to affect others. This anecdote about whispering white students is meant to make us feel guilty about racism at Williams, and sorry for poor Juanita. However, such whispers are not a significant part of the Williams College that I know. I could not imagine the typically liberal Williams student uttering such sentiments; were any reprobate to even suggest such a thing, he would be quickly scolded and corrected by his peers.

Perhaps such whispering used to happen decades ago. If so, it is no longer relevant or accurate. But I feel that Tabor and many others do not particularly care whether or not this anecdote is true. No matter what the actual state of undergraduate life, some will never be satisfied. They will insist on imagining a world of racial division and alienation. Their statements have no relationship to truth or falsity.

Furthermore, I am not sure what is meant by the statement that there are not “enough faculty who are seasoned in cultural competency to make a difference.” “Cultural competency” seems, at worst, to be meaningless jargon. Assuming that we all come from unique and different life-experiences, the main factor in being culturally competent is the ability to relate to other human beings regardless of prejudices, and to treat them with dignity and respect as unique individuals. Needless to say, there are plenty of Williams faculty capable of doing this.

There is plenty more where this came from – I have only picked up on a few of the problematic points. The rest of Tabor’s report is a summary of official glories – how various networks of race-specific alumni have been formed – followed by the tenuous claim that such networks are the best way to keep colored alumni involved with Williams.

I fundamentally agree with Tabor that minority students are often alienated and frustrated with life at Williams; I think that they may well be less likely to appreciate their time at Williams after graduation. However, her analysis of the cause is misguided. The rhetoric employed is the most simplistic form of race-baiting: Whites are ignorant and stupid, and “Coloreds” are helpless victims.

In truth, the cause of segregation and alienation runs much deeper than anything that can be blamed on individuals at Williams. Williams is a microcosm of a larger society. As the country has progressed in the last few decades, so have Williams students. I suspect that bureaucratic “Diversity Initiatives” have had very little to do with progress, either in the country at large or within Williams. Times have changed, and race relations are now much better than they were in the past, although many difficulties remain. Progress is slow and painful and rarely within the control of grandiose consultants’ reports and initiatives. Progress is not produced by SPARC workshops. If colored students are still alienated from white students at Williams, it is a symptom of the fact that they will experience such alienation in the world beyond Williams.

It is not helpful to exacerbate such alienation by describing fictional and fantastic situations of racism. Personally, my hope is that we will someday forget all about race. Diversity Initiatives that focus on race, and identify everybody as either “white” or “colored,” are part of the problem. It does not help anything to publish a report that merely complains about (real or imagined) instances of racism, and suggests further racial segregation (among the alumni community) as a solution. The consciousness of race itself is poisonous to our hopes for a united human society.

I presume our goal is to live in a world where race does not matter, where only character matters. If so, we must stop viewing society through the lens of race, perceiving every slight as a possible racial assault (as in the case of the professor telling a minority student that she can’t write), organizing reunions and parties and relationships only on the basis of race. Assigning importance to racial differences in everyday life is offensive to humanism and individualism.

It seems as if Tabor was called upon to write something about the Alumni Relations office in relation to Diversity. In response, she assembled a string of platitudinous anecdotes (1) and a summary of bureaucratic achievements (2), all meant to convey the impression that the Alumni Relations office cares and contributes when it comes to the sacred issue of Diversity; furthermore, the Alumni Relations office has a great plan for the future – we can apparently raise more money and volunteers from minority alumni if we divide up the alumni community by race, and address each race individually. Because it would presumably be too difficult not to pigeonhole people.

EDIT: If you have trouble accessing the online report, email me (ronitb at gmail.com) and I’ll be glad to help you get access.

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