Our campus, other than shock at this occurrence, was virtually silent on the affair. Most people publicly complained about the lack of information about the gun shots and gunman and how, compared to other violent crimes that occurred this year, the police department gave out the least information while this seems the most potentially fatal. Yet, I think most people on campus couldn’t help but make a connection between the shootings and the “black” event at Stanford.
Other than mentions of proximity, only one person really brought up the issue that most people felt too polite to bring up: the reflection the shootings would have on Stanford’s black community. Autumn Carter wrote a compelling article in the Stanford Review about the fact that being black in itself has nothing to do with violence. People are familiar with the black community here – this idea should be self-evident. Yet, even though no one made a big fuss over the connection, she felt the need to defend the community. And I can’t help but wonder why.
Is it because the silence hid both snickers and pity about the irony of the situation? Maybe. Is it because, due to circumstance, people will consider racial ideas about violence before considering other factors such as history and socioeconomic factors? Possibly. I could try to go over all the reasons in my head but rather than think of why this type of thinking can still happen here at Stanford, I’d like to consider how to change the way people view these kinds of episodes.
After having a discussion with a friend who was not black, he informed me that not only did he not know about black community events but that he never felt particularly invited to them. To him, Blackfest, despite the coordination between the diverse Stanford Concert Network and the Black Family Gathering Community to bring in big name hip hop artists that appeal to people of all races, was for Stanford’s black community only. This is obviously a misconception. But it’s a misconception that no one’s actively trying to dispel. The black community, along with all the other cultural communities are not a separate part of Stanford, but groups that explore a specific aspect of some of the student population’s heritage. I think we need to change the way we approach Stanford’s multicultural communities.
The shooting near Blackfest should not have been a black community problem but a Stanford problem. But in order for that type of thinking to develop there needs to be more of a cross exchange between the cultural communities and Stanford at large. After having written this, I realized that in my dorm of over 300 people, rarely do I get invitations to for cultural events other than performances featuring dormmates.
I’m a member of the Diaspora, which is a rare forum that actually gets emails (or spam for some people) from a multitude of communities on campus. This meant that the only space where I received information about the May 12th visit from Tim Wise, an antiracist essayist, was from a mailing list that many people are too daunted to look through. I have even received a community weekly newsletter that has information about events from 7 different minority groups. It’s useful news that should reach beyond the groups that started it!
I don’t expect this type of exchange to change the way people think about race quickly or even fundamentally. But I would like to see our cultural communities be more than microcosms of the school that, while strong, can still be overshadowed or blamed. We all have our own communities – here at Stanford, in our hometowns, and within our families. We’re all a member of many. And being a member of these separate communities is not exclusive. If race is a part of your identity, more and more people of other races should be able to understand it! I think our cultural communities have it within their power to make a preemptive strike towards the thinking on this campus that led to Autumn’s article. Blackfest wasn’t hosted by the black community, but our black community. I hope that one day, most people here will really believe that statement.