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Segregation redux?

In response to the winter Scope’s “Outreach or Sanctuary” feature, here is my opinion about identity-based clubs: I am opposed to them. (I’m aware that my reaction is evidence of how this subject is defined by each individual's experience and will not generate consensus. There is no right or wrong on this subject, and the conversation regarding it has no beginning or end.)

My childhood took place in the 1960s and ’70s, when one of the primary social issues that consumed our country was racial desegregation. And so by the time I arrived at Skidmore in 1979,
it did not seem logical to intentionally segregate myself from the Skidmore community by socializing with only my own kind and by joining the Asian students’ club (which I think was a new club on campus then). On our first day on campus in our freshman year, everyone felt the same way that I did. We were all strangers having just arrived in a new place. We were all uncomfortable and nervous.

Today’s people of color have been brainwashed in a negative way. It is arrogant and self-absorbed of them to think that they have the monopoly on feeling out of place, uncomfortable, or different from the general society. Or that because their skin color is some special shade it offers them a special placecard, a right to stand at the head of some mysterious line to receive special treatment. Here is my recommendation to today’s young people of color: Read and study the history of the United States of America. What you feel about your place and your experience in American society is what has been felt and experienced by, literally, millions before you.

I think this issue of “diversity” is an exploitation of a set group of people, and those people don’t even know it. What significance is it that Skidmore’s student population includes 15 percent students of color? What percentage will be enough or ideal? And just what exactly is “diverse” anyway? Has any-one asked of late if there are enough Italians, Scottish, Irish, Germans, Dutch, Swedes, or Russians in the student population? And what exactly is “awareness” of cultural diversity? Is there some exam that will require the entire student population to recite the complete list of countries, religions, ethnic groups, and languages spoken on the planet? Just how far will these identity-based clubs go? Is there yet a deaf students’ society or a blind club? Aren’t blonds
still the only true minority on the planet? Or is that redheads?

I challenge the so-called “minority” students on campus to close down their special-interest clubs for one semester. Have no meetings, hold no events. Conduct this experiment for one semester,
and use the time otherwise spent with these clubs for getting to know your fellow students and other members of the Skidmore community better, and for participating in the campus and wider community just like everyone else.

Stop splintering and dividing, separating and segregating. Isn’t this what we want from our politicians? Isn’t this what we want for our country? Then why not start at Skidmore?

Melanie J. Lee ’83 New York, N.Y