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Photo Courtesy of FACES

LTE: Facing Forward: Why a BC-Born Anti-Racist Organization is Rebranding

FACES Council is an anti-racism organization that was founded in 2003 by an eclectic group of football players, their friends, and a Boston College math professor who goes by Dr. A. It was created to fill a need in the Boston College community: a forum to address issues of racism both structurally and interpersonally through conversation and education. Many aspects of BC and FACES itself have changed since then, but much has remained the same. In particular, a culture that normalizes racism has been allowed to fester and metastasize.

Hailey Burgess, MCAS '19, Alina Kim, LSOE '20, and Jessica Murray, MCAS '19, are the current FACES co-directors, leading the charge in answering these tough questions and enacting this progress. Leading a council of thirty equally as dedicated students, we hope to make big changes to the organization and ultimately to the University’s policies on the whole.

In 2016, gay slurs were written across a parking board in the Mod Lot. Organizers and students of all orientations, ethnicities, and creeds marched. Some because they wanted to, but most because they had to. It is this innate call to take a stand and proclaim that Silence Is Violence which operates at the core of all FACES members.

A year went by and an entire class of people graduated, a new group taking their place. Living in the aftermath of the election was a shock to some, but to students of color, it was an affirmation of everyday experiences. The turmoil felt around the country last year was especially mirrored on our campus. We all know the story: racist, anti-black sentiments on Snapchat, the defacing and tearing down of Black Lives Matter signs, and a lack of sufficient action from the institution—all of which have become hallmarks of the BC experience.

But, it doesn’t have to be. At least, that’s how members of FACES Council felt. It was time for tangible action. After years of us leading the conversation and only making marginal strides, we decided to take a more direct approach than was originally decided upon all those years ago. FACES Council was instrumental in the planning of the Black Lives Matter march that made national headlines and captivated the campus for months to follow. We met with administrators, organized with fellow students, and put all other work and activities aside. Did it make any difference? Or were we doomed to this cycle of incidents then outrage then marches?

These are some of the questions we all grapple with. Nevertheless, as an anti-racism organization, FACES must ask ourselves the following: What is our role in a post-2016 election world? Should we edit the rulebook or throw it away entirely? Do we have the jurisdiction to do so? What is our mission? What is our purpose? Unfortunately, in all our years of conversations—engaging the BC community in discussions of race and racism—the needle has moved very little. In a national context, it is becoming increasingly clear that discussions alone cannot solve the variety of oppressions in our society; instead, it is the roots of structural power itself that must be addressed.

FACES has a broader, little-known history apart from “Race 101” presentations in classrooms. When we were founded, there was no policy regarding the demographic makeup of any single floor. It was fully possible, and in fact common, that a freshman student of color could be the only non-white person on their floor, inviting increased incidents as well as feelings of isolation. Through the work of our members, the administration finally put a policy in place to ensure that would never happen again. We identified a problem, took the necessary steps, and created a permanent solution. We intend to do more of that. In fact, it's imperative we do so if the role of racism at BC is to make any further progress.

Just last week, FACES Council voted to approve a new mission statement, which reads as follows:

FACES is an organization committed to challenging racism and systems of power as they manifest at Boston College and beyond. We seek to end racism and its roots in oppression and dehumanization through conversation, academic forums, and direct action. In these ways, FACES engages fellow students in a desire for justice and contributes to an equitable educational and social environment.

Notably, a new mission statement will, of course, not eliminate racism at BC. Nor will a shiny new logo. But it is the accompanying shift in mindset that we hope will galvanize FACES Council and campus as a whole to approach anti-racism more comprehensively. While we will not discount the importance of conversation and education to combat racism, we are excited to explore the potential of increased direct action and policy change.

As we implement this new approach, many members of Council are acutely aware of their waning time at BC to affect change, as well as the limited ways in which we have thus far. This effort to rebrand and refocus is as much a self-criticism as it is a progressive vision. We believe that combining education with action and radicalizing our own notions of racism and power in society is the best way to leave a legacy of a more just BC. We want students to feel confident that FACES doesn’t educate white students at the expense of students of color. Through our events, programming, and discussions this year and beyond, we are committed to a comprehensive method that takes all students into account.

In a time of uncertainty, we are all asking similar questions: What is our role? Or perhaps, more appropriately, what is our duty? In considering what we owe to the student body, to each other, and to society at large, we’ve committed ourselves to taking action and inspiring others to do the same.

Get involved with FACES this semester! Applications are due Friday, October 5.

Crossroads weekly discussion group:

First Year Program:

Here is a list of resources curated by FACES in order to help you get started:

Here’s how to reach FACES and continue the conversation:

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