Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism Discusses Activism and Its Role in Combating Institutional Racism

Professor Patrick McQuillan invited Eradicate BC to his “Secondary/Middle School History Methods” class to lead a workshop discussing systemic racism and how Eradicate has used student activism to combat structural and institutional oppression.

The workshop was led by Eradicate representatives Jon Barry, a Boston College alumnus, ‘07, School of Social Work ’15 graduate, and Kim Ashby, a fourth-year Counseling Psychology doctoral student. The majority of those who attended were in Dr. McQuillan’s class, but a few outside students and professors joined as well.

Eradicate’s goals for the workshop were “introducing definitions of different types of racism”, “frame the role that historians play in constructing narratives that either challenge or reinforce white supremacy”, and “introduce the theories of change and tactics of Eradicate.”

The definitions presented were of racism, internalized racism, interactional racism, institutional racism, and structural racism.

There was some contention that arose around Eradicate’s definition of racism--“race prejudice combined with institutional power that privilege white people”--because it means that only white people can be racist.

“You can’t be racist unless you have an identity supported by institutional power,” said Jon Barry, “We are making the generalization that nearly everywhere you can go on the globe as a white person you’ll benefit from white privilege.”

“As a person of color, it’s certainly possible for me to be prejudiced right, to discriminate against someone for a number of reasons,” continued Kim Ashby, “But because I don’t have power within the United States, within Boston College, in this way that comes along with advantage in particular systems and institutions, therefore I’m not perpetuating the systems or institutions.”

“I’m worried of the generalization,” responded Daniel Chou, one of Dr. McQuillan’s students, “For example, I come from Japan and I would highly be doubtful to say that as a white person you would have an advantage, specifically to your point, over say Japanese people.”

This discussion essentially ended with agreeing to disagree.

Internalized and interactional racism fall under individual types of racism, which is the form that most people are familiar with--”prejudices, biases and racial blindspots that we have within ourselves as individuals” and “people with privilege acting out their individual racial prejudice.” This type of racism is the visible part of the “Iceberg of Racism”. One student gave the example of how there is racism internalized in the black community regarding being dark versus light skinned. When this is manifested in action, such as through social exclusion, then it becomes interactional racism.

However, Eradicate mainly focuses on the part of the iceberg that is underwater: systemic types of racism.

This includes institutional and structural racism--“policies and practices that systematically generate unequal outcomes for people of color, regardless of individual sentiments or intent” which then becomes an “institute interacting over time to produce social structures and culture that reinforce white supremacy.” Some examples brought up were anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S., the start of redlining by the National Housing Act of 1934, and college assessment and admission standards.

Then, the room was tasked with creating a narrative on Eradicate BC Racism, but the room was split into two groups, one that was given historical information and another that had to solely rely on the memories of its members. As a whole, the former group painted a much more positive picture of EBCR and its goals, while the latter group had second-hand knowledge, or heresay, primarily on any controversial acts the group has been involved with.

“It’s interesting for us to see as a group what do people know about Eradicate,” said Lynch School graduate student and Eradicate BC graduate student member Gloria McGillan, “I can see that there’s fragmentary information and there’s some perception that the group is responsible for things that it wasn’t responsible actually for.”

Eradicate Boston College Racism is an unregistered student organization that is unaffiliated with BC. On their website, they have a list of asks that they have sent to the Boston College administration. The list also shows BC’s response, or more often lack of response, to each individual goal.

One of Eradicate’s goals as an organization is to address BC’s Euro-centric core curriculum. Ashby even quoted the BC website regarding the history core which “ought to particular, on the events, movements and personalities considered important to understanding European history and the impact of European institutions on the modern world.“ The line that comes after about how “the courses should also promote an awareness of historical developments in other parts of the world” seems almost like an afterthought.

“I was really interested in learning about African history; there was only one class that was an option I could choose from,” said Morgan Healy, another of Dr. McQuillan’s students, “The fact that there’s one history class about an entire continent and multiple about a single region or single two month time period is very astonishing and disturbing.”

“Because these are our goals, this is the kind of reason why we’re not an institutionally affiliated group,” said Ashby, “If we were we would be within the system and wouldn’t be able to change it.”

As for the administration’s non response, Barry markedly noted, “When I was a student here in 2006 and 2007, each of these demands, we were also asking for then, so it’s not an issue of nonresponse currently, it’s been an issue of non response over decades.”

“To me what is really encouraging about what happened is that Dr. McQuillan used the power that he has as a tenured faculty member to invite in an unregistered group and create a space for dialogue,” said McGillan, “Which is something that the university routinely says it would prefer we pursue and which we are very open to pursuing, but we just often don’t have the space to because of the ways in which the administrators welcome or don’t welcome us onto the campus.

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