The Intergroup Relations CommonGround Workshop Program and the Student Engagement Team hosted an open dialogue Wednesday evening to discuss the aftermath of recent protests at the University of Missouri and Yale University.
Though the dialogue attracted about a dozen students from different backgrounds, organizers noted that the demographics of attendees differed from previous events hosted in solidarity with University of Missouri students.
LSA senior Elena Ross said the group was predominantly comprised of females and non-Black students. As a result, she said the discussion focused on the topic of “allyhood” and resulted in a different tone than that of other events on the topic last week, like the demonstration on the Diag hosted by the School of Social Work People of Color Collective.
During the dialogue, participants divided into two groups — those who identified as white moved to a different space while students who identified as a minority stayed in the room.
Ross said students were separated to create an atmosphere where everyone is comfortable to explore their thoughts and feelings among those who share their identity before collaborating as a large group once again.
“What happened in Mizzou, racism in general, is an extremely different experience for every identity, so we wanted to respect that and give people space to reflect or heal or explore authentically and honestly in a way that wasn’t harmful to themselves or the people around them,” Ross said. “More concretely we didn’t want people of color here to feel like they were educating white people, we didn’t want white people to feel that their feelings of not even being sure if they should be here at all were valid.”
The group consisting of minority group students expressed frustration that those who would benefit most from attending such dialogues failed to participate, leading to stagnancy in the cause.
LSA junior Toni Wang said even though the University is working to make the campus more accessible to marginalized students, it’s sometimes feels like it’s moving in circles.
“It feels like we talk about the issues and recognize that they’re there, and it’s hard to create a tangible solution when we’re 20 people and not everyone understands what our mission is,” Wang said.
The group at large discussed the struggle of allying with groups of different identities.
One student said an effective ally is simply someone who listens. He envisioned a productive ally relationship where diverse groups listen to one another and share what they’ve learned with the groups they each identify with.
Ross said as a white person, she feels it is her responsibility to listen to minority voices and communicate that message to others who may be unwilling to listen.
“The one tool that I have as a white person is the ability to talk to white people who are unwilling to hear other voices that are not white, and unfortunately a lot of powerful voices have that inclination,” she said.
LSA senior Ivory Bradley said the dialogue served as an example of the discomfort different racial groups feel trying to support one another as allies. She said she felt more comfortable during last week’s demonstration on the Diag than in the IGR session and noted there was more conversation and emotion there.
She attributed this sentiment to the uneasiness people of different races feel when discussing such sensitive topics.
“There is just always people walking on eggshells when we talk about certain events, and we just need to get past the point where we’re no longer walking on eggshells,” Bradley said. “It felt awkward in the sense that certain people weren’t comfortable talking about certain topics, and that’s something you have to learn to get through.”
On a list of guidelines for the dialogue, participants were warned to “expect and accept a lack of closure.” The goal was to process the frustration and continue the conversation beyond the doors of the room.
However, this inaction left many attendees leaving unfulfilled.
“I think everyone in this dialogue has very similar feelings about what needs to be done,” said LSA sophomore Sarah Peng. “But there are very little tangible goals as to what we can do.”