Blacks must be more integrated into community
I was quite alarmed to read Joanna Stone '91's recent column in The Tech ["At least the Review is honest," Oct. 2], which compared Dartmouth's overt racism with MIT's more subtle brand. Apparently a couple of black friends had told her they would prefer the open, hostile form of racism to the under-the-surface variety.
I am glad to see this issue come up. It is not necessary for a racial attack to occur out in the open before the problem is subject to discussion, and hopefully Stone's column has enabled us to avoid this scenario. Voices must be heard from members of all communities in order to resolve existing problems and avoid future ones.
Growing up, there were no blacks in my neighborhood but I had several Jewish friends. The Jewish family across the street could expect to be vandalized every two to three years in an anti-Semitic attack. I remember feeling horrified and helpless, as if demons were at work, because in my naivete it seemed that people should be incapable of such cruelty. I find it difficult to believe that such open hostility is preferable to hidden prejudice; as a friend of the family I felt intimidated.
At my high school of 2200 students, there were 12 in the black students' organization. Coming to MIT, it was so refreshing to see Chinese, Indian, Korean, and black students for the first time, but there is a stark contrast in the way the groups interact. There is a wall around the black community which is in some cases impenetrable.
But this is 1990. My generation has grown up learning the horrors of a baffling past: slavery, the Holocaust, two world wars, and crippling racism. I was born in 1971, seven years after the Civil Rights Act, 17 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, and 106 years after the Civil War.
I did not create this system, but as an American it is my responsibility to learn the dark side of our country's history in order to avoid repetition. I loathe the vestiges of racism which remain, and deeply want things to change.
Things have changed over the years. Friends of mine feel very strongly about racism.
Narrow-minded blacks may presume me to be racist, or at the very least untrustworthy, because I am white. My first reaction is helplessness, then frustration, then resentment at being judged by my skin color. Racism certainly can go both ways.
For blacks at a campus such as MIT, there is a choice. The black community can grow apart, and succeed on its own, with as little social interaction as possible with whites. I feel confident in saying we would all be missing out. Being cut off from a segment of society with its own identity and accomplishments would be nothing short of tragic.
The other option is to give whites in my generation a little slack. When you encounter an incident which seems racist, make sure it is not the result of ignorance or insecurity. Sometimes people honestly don't know the effects their actions have. Something that might be perceived as deliberate antagonism may be the result of not understanding the subtleties of racism. Some honestly don't know any better; like me they may have never gone to school with blacks before.
Unfortunately, there are true racists here. I think it's a fair assumption to make; just as we have a broad spectrum of races we have a broad spectrum of attitudes and upbringings.
Don't let the few rotten apples spoil the barrel. Please don't hold me responsible for my morally bankrupt peers because it doesn't do any of us any good.
Perhaps I have exaggerated the magnitude of the problem, and in fact I would like to think I have. If I haven't, then I implore this campus to bridge remaining gaps. We are among the best and the brightest; we should be the enlightened as well. If there is any hope for society then an institute of higher learning should be capable of setting an example.
Rebecca Geisler '93->