AARON SKUBBY, News Editor — The administration has brought together 21 faculty, staff and students to create an Antiracism Task Force with the goal of promoting antiracism across Denison.
The task force will comprise of three subcommittees as part of a plan titled “Denison Forward.” The subcommittees are “people, practices, and possibilities.”
But who are the people doing the work on the subcommittees? The Denisonian had the chance to meet with four different members of the task force: two students and two faculty who shared their goals and the importance of antiracism work to them.
Dr. Toni King, chair of the Black Studies department and part of the possibilities committee, said “I have a goal of wanting students to have the opportunity to learn social justice work that they can bring to the world.” This goal “would involve making the college accessible to students, whether it be training or leadership programs.”
Dr. King highlighted the importance of education and “understanding how systems work and creating systems that counter oppression and injustice” for social justice leaders. She noted in particular the “freedom schools” of the civil rights movement and the development of strategies used by Black Lives Matter organizers as key examples of educating for racial justice organizing.
Dr. King emphasized the long tradition of social justice expertise, and questioned how that expertise can be brought to Denison’s campus. She also suggested that Denison students may not be learning about antiracism works “unless they are in those disciplines where that is a part of the disciplinary work.”
Dr. Heather Pool, a political science professor, explained what the task force can do to make that change. As part of the practices committee, she expressed that it is “always important for institutions and people to step back and reflect on things they’re doing well and things they could do better,” and that it is critical that we focus on “doing things better as opposed to talking about doing things better.”
While Denison may only be a drop in the bucket in terms of antiracism work, Dr. Pool explained that “part of this work is understanding that we are limited by our context, but also understanding that we can transcend that and be better at meaningful dialogue, improvement, and commitment to justice.”
Denison students are better suited to understand the campus climate and community than any faculty or staff member, which is why their presence on the task force is so important. One such student, Ray Walker ‘22, discussed the readiness of the student body to engage in meaningful change. “A lot of students are willing to put in the work,” he said, “but you have a lot of performative activism.”
Walker explained that the campus community needs to “break the structural barriers for students of color on campus to help them feel comfortable.” Part of his hopes in achieving this goal is to engage with students and campus organizations, and to overcome the “clique” mentality on campus.
Chris Linares ‘22, who is also a member of the task force, touched on the unique role that students play in their ability to see “things administration doesn’t necessarily see.” He is optimistic about the campus climate, saying “everyone is really interested in getting involved with antiracism,” and that part of the task force’s role is to “educate people on campus who haven’t been affected by issues that are going on.”
Linares highlighted some meaningful work that campus organizations have already been doing, such as an event put on by Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in collaboration with the Black Student Union discussing the use of the N-Word in the Latinx community.
Walker left an important suggestion to students and community members interested in participating in antiracism work. He said: “Do the work. Do the research. Educate yourself.”
EDITORS’ NOTE: This is a follow up to the article “Dr. Alex Miller’s Antiracism Task Force unites students and staff” by Emma Proe, Asst. Features Editor.
BROADCAST: Hear Dr. Miller talk about the taskforce with Ray Walker, The Denisonian’s Media/Broadcast Producer.