Reflections on Racism

Be Light or Be Disguised?

By Marquise Griffin

This past Saturday night, around 1000 members of the Kalamazoo College community crowded into Hicks for the annual Monte Carlo dance. This year’s Monte Carlo’s theme was Masquerade, a theme I think is very appropriate for us as Kalamazoo College students. In a sense, Monte Carlo, as a whole, is one large charade. During the event, participants were given $50,000 in “Monte Dollars” to be used to gamble in the casino games and activities.

It was a fun event because it allowed everyone a time to escape from real life into a world of fantasy where you could eat unusual food, dance to good music, and gamble away all your money if you wished without any repercussions.

The idea of a masquerade is to attend an event dressed extravagantly while hiding one’s identity. This allows a person to momentarily assume a different persona; to pretend to be someone they’re not, or perhaps, that they wish to be.

So how does this theme relate to us? In a way, we go through our daily lives wearing masks, putting on a masquerade. We present a self that’s socially acceptable, a self that our friends and teachers approve of.  We rarely present the real self because we worry about the consequences. And it is in this way that many of the injustices and inequalities of our society go unaddressed and unresolved.

It’s been my experience when talking in a large group setting about racism that many people share what they believe to be the “politically correct” opinion. They don’t share what they really think out of fear of saying something offensive and sparking outrage. In other words, when it comes to discussing and addressing racism, people usually put on masks.

So how do we get past this? One of my favorite words of wisdom comes from the Book of Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I believe when someone takes off their mask and briefly shows what they really think, we should not respond with anger and indignation. Doing so only serves to reinforce the masquerade that everyone is on the same page, when we all know we really aren’t. We should respond with calmness and work to change each other opinions, to enlighten one another’s minds. So let’s take off our disguises and be light.

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