If one of our society's goals is to become color blind, we at Columbia are failing miserably. I'm not just talking about the Columbia University Marching Band posters, or the Columbia College Conservative Club's Bake Sale, or even the cartoon in The Fed that sparked the most recent increase in racial tension. We Columbians have trained our telescopes on the issue of color, magnifying it thousands of times, determined to focus on nothing else lest we lose sight of this important and divisive issue. Color blind? Not by a long shot.
Everything at Columbia is called racist. Literature Humanities is racist, Contemporary Civilizations is racist, the proposed expansion is racist, the administration is racist, students are racist, professors are racist, and just about anyone who disagrees with anyone else on this campus is somehow racist, even if both people are of the same race. To say the least, it gets tiring to continuously hear that every activity on the campus is a racist one.
A quick look at the club listing reveals that a large percentage of the student organizations on campus are based upon race: clubs for every race, engineers of that race, women of specific races, even religious groups that are race-specific. I can't think of a single racial group without a club at Columbia, except possibly Jewish Latinos who want to study Asian culture while eating soul food. I'm not criticizing these clubs, or suggesting they disband. I applaud their existence, but they are representative of an over-emphasis on race, and a paucity of interest in activities that bring people of all races together.
Students, from the day they arrive on campus, are bombarded with the topic of race. In my first year, a fellow student informed me that I was admitted to Columbia because I am white, and somehow benefit from historic oppression of blacks. Last week, the organization Respecting Ourselves and Others Through Education held a discussion on "White Privilege and White Guilt." During the pro-war/anti-war protests last year, a protester told white students that they could not voice their opinions concerning the war because only black and Hispanic people serve in the armed forces and they are the only ones who would die. That is a paraphrase, but I can quote the response accurately from both sides: "Racist! Racist! Racist!"
I'm not trying to pick a fight here, or claim that white students are oppressed in any way. I'm also not trying to defend recent events or minimize anyone's racial heritage. Ben Schwartz's cartoon was bad, but to call it symbolic of an underlying racism at Columbia is an overreaction. It was a misguided cartoon that may have intended to satirize stereotypes, as Schwartz has said, but did so in a way that reflected ignorance about both the subject matter and the probable reaction. Furthermore, it was printed in a newspaper that often relies upon the shock value of the hey-look-what-we-can-get-away-with attitude it embodies.
The CCCC Bake Sale was satirical; it didn't differentiate between races any more than affirmative action does. If you didn't like it or agree with it, fine, but it wasn't racist. As for CUMB, just ask Fordham about the propriety of their speech. They have the right to say what they like, but they frequently fall into the category of being immature and provocative rather than intelligently humorous.
I'm aware that this sounds more like a long rant and less like a deep analysis of the problem; but I've had it. For far too long, students of all races have hurt the academic and social quality of life at this University not only by playing the race card, but by stacking the deck with only race cards.
The time for real discussion about race at Columbia is over. It's time for less discussion and less focus on this one particular issue. In my experience, the undergraduate student body is very accepting, tolerant, and racially homogenous. They're just tired of being endlessly lectured to about race. The actions of a few individuals, whether misguided, ignorant, or even truly racist, do not make the entire undergraduate student body, or the entire institution, racist.
So, if you're just looking for a fight, fight against the few people who have provoked you. If you're offended, take a minute to think about who offended you. If you want to see a color-blind community, quit thinking so much about color. If you're one of those people who want a reason to recreate the 1968 riots, do it while I'm away for Spring Break. Just realize that immaturity and ignorance exist, that the vast majority of people at Columbia aren't racist, and that, while race is an important issue, it doesn't have to be the only issue.
The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in economics.