An Elephant in the Living Room

by P. Cesar De Los Santos | 1/22/99 6:00am

In recent issues of The Dartmouth, the topic of race has been in the spotlight and, along with it, a term which is not very popular around here, racism. Racism is a problem that exists in this community. We must do something now to fix this problem, and to prevent racist activities from happening ever again.

Two of these occurred last term: the Indian shirt and the "ghetto" party. The Indian shirt which portrayed a bulldog performing oral sex on a Native American was very insulting to me. I have Indian blood (along with African and Spaniard) running through my veins, and I don't think it would have been funny if, instead of the Indian or the dog, there was a fraternity brother in the picture. I don't care if the Indian is, according to the Dartmouth Review, the "official" mascot of this campus. That shirt was abominable and, above all, racist! And what about the ghetto party? I am from one of the 'hoods ( of the Uptown Bronx), and we don't have any dressing codes. You see people with suits, baggy pants, lots of jewelry, and all kind of accessories. So to say "lets have a ghetto party and dress as blacks" is not only racist because there are no dressing codes in the 'hood, but because not all ghettos are black. My 'hood is mostly Hispanic.

Before we can tackle racism we must understand what it is and what we can do to fight it. Racism is without question one of the ugliest problems that we have to deal with today in our community. It is a "belief" founded on ignorance, irrational assumptions, and hatred. As a society we must do everything possible to fight it -- although, unfortunately, we will never be able to eliminate it. There will always be insecure, ignorant people who will blame their problems upon and make fun of those different than themselves.

It will take tremendous courage to make any true headway in this area. Some people think that racism exists in this community; others disagree. The issue is incredibly sensitive and people on both sides of it are extremely rigid in their beliefs as to what is the cause of the problem. This is a situation in which only "the Truth will set us free." If we do not deal openly and honestly with the issues, no matter how sensitive, we will never make any progress.

We have the proverbial "elephant in the living room," and no one is willing to admit that it is there, much less talk about it. The elephant's name is racism. To win the fight against racism we must fight it on all fronts. It is never an acceptable behavior regardless of your skin color or historical background.

We must leave the past and all of its ugliness behind, and start right now. Racism is not acceptable behavior by anyone, for any reason, period. And we must be 100 percent honest about what is happening no matter who is upset by it. There will always be those (of all colors) who, for their own selfish reasons, would like to keep the "status quo" and who are very good at making their hate sound righteous. We can no longer let them influence us as we seek out the truth.

How can Dartmouth be a better place? By strongly promoting the advantages of a racially harmonious and cohesive society based on mutual respect, understanding, compassion, justice, and reconciliation. By attributing equal esteem to all citizens of our diverse society. And by advocating changes in the community to enhance our progress towards an equitable and racially harmonious society.

Racist comments or stereotypes, do not make anyone feel good. If you think that the "ghetto" party and the Indian shirt were not racist, just put your feet in the shoes of someone of African heritage or see things from a Native American point of view. We have to keep in mind at all times that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Any discriminatory act or event is not justified by any means. Although I sometimes feel like a "chocolate chip inside a glass of milk," strongly disagree with evolutionists, and hold different moral values from those of many people here on many things, I have no right to discriminate against them based on their race, or even religious beliefs, morals or values.

Racism has never been an "issue" in my family. Our members come in all kinds of colors from places such as Greece, Albania, Africa, Spain, and others. Why? Because racism is simply wrong and unacceptable.

I have a dream that one day I will be judged by all in the Dartmouth community not by the color of my skin (which is a beautiful Caribbean Natural Tan that I would not change or trade for anything because that's the way God made me) but by the content of my character.