At common time yesterday, crowds and clouds gathered around Sayles Gymnasium to attend “We Aren’t Going Anywhere”, a gathering meant to address racial and ethnic tensions on campus.
Raul Guzman ‘17 and several other community members planned the gathering in the past few days. The gathering was organized as a response to a racist incident Guzman faced this past weekend, when he found a hate note on his desk telling him, in no kind words, that he doesn’t belong at Carleton.
As Guzman recounted the incident, the sky let loose a downpour, and the crowd huddled under umbrellas and the entrance to Sayles. Following Guzman’s introduction was a speech by Gabriela Bosquez ‘17. “This is not a party,” Bosquez declared. “It’s about showing support for one another.”
Mo Vue ‘14, a member of the Coalition of Hmong Students, helped organize the gathering. “Even though the weather was bad, we still stood our ground,” she said “We still made statements, we still hope that it will empower students and show them that their experiences are valid.”
Thomas Hiura ‘17 heard about the event on Facebook. “I play pool with Raul a lot. He’s one of the most good natured, good hearted men I know.” Hiura and Guzman are in the same American Mixed Race History class taught by Professor Harry Williams. “Raul makes very thoughtful comments on race.” said Hiura.
Rumors has it that the note left on Guzman’s desk was meant as a joke. But when he saw the note, the only message he received was one of hatred. “Even if this person was trying to evoke some sort of humorous response,” said Guzman during an interview after the rally, “I didn’t feel that way at all.” Guzman said he has never seen the handwriting on the note.
“Seriousness is irrelevant,” said Hiura regarding the intent of the note. “The fact that they invaded his privacy is serious, the fact that they belittled his right to exist here is serious.”
Guzman posted a photo of the note on Facebook Monday morning. After corresponding with the leaders of various diversity groups across campus, the gathering concept was formed. The event planners met for the first time Monday night and had the plans finalized by Wednesday. Speed was important; they hoped to carry momentum from online outrage to a movement for constructive change.
While formulating the event, Guzman and the other organiz- ers selected the term “gathering” over “rally.” This functioned in part to distance the event from last spring’s infamous rally. As Vue explained, the “gathering was meant to spread a positive message of support, rather than attacking racial incidents. The new terminology also established the event as a beginning toward a proactive future.
“From what I heard, not much was done after the rally [last year],” Guzman said in an inter- view. “We are actively pursing a proactive program and educa- tion process.” Guzman hopes to expand the ethnic and racial diversity discussions during New Student Week. He found that the Stand Up diversity exercise in- coming freshmen practice serves only as a passive acknowledg- ment of diversity on campus.
Guzman hopes to expand diversity education to faculty and staff. In the fall, Guzman had to deal with a microagressive professor. “I didn’t know how to react or respond to the statements made to me,” said Guzman. “Not all professors are like that, but we can easily avoid situations where students would feel insulted.”
As the reporter interviewed Gabriela Bosquez, Raul asked her to dance. It may not have been a party, but it certainly felt like a celebration for a new beginning.