The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at Trinity University held an event on Jan. 29 that facilitated an open discussion about color blindness versus color awareness. YCT presented questions such as “is calling yourself color blind racist or offensive?”, “how should conservatives think about race?” and “what are we to make of social justice responses to racial issues in the United States?” to stimulate discussion. The meeting had the largest non-YCT member attendance of the school year. This was due to overwhelming attendance from the Trinity Diversity Connection (TDC) and the Black Student Union (BSU). The discussion did not take the course that is typical for YCT meetings. The questions were all answered, but only by one side of the argument, with some representatives from TDC and BSU dominating the discussion. This left many people with unsaid comments and more questions than they came in with.
Regardless of how the meeting went, there was a much more productive discussion that went on after the meeting. Members from each club were able to ask each other questions and understand how the other side perceived the initial questions intended to lead the discussion. The discussion even got to the point where the members found a middle ground and introduced solutions. This just goes to show that the type of discussion and the demeanor of the participants can really affect the outcome and views of everyone involved. This may just be anecdotal, but it definitely rang true in this instance.
So what was actually discussed at the meeting? A lot of things were brought up but what it really boils down to is the question of equity over equality. YCT members were mostly arguing for equality by advocating decision-making ignorant of race. BSU and TDC members were largely arguing for equity by advocating for making decisions conscious and inclusive of race.
Individuals from BSU believed that white people will have to put themselves down and be “uncomfortable” for a little while in order to achieve true equity of the races, typically being facilitated by the law. This obviously is well-intentioned, as it advocates for the furthering of success of black people and other people of color. The only people who would speak out against this argument’s goal are racists. However, this is just fighting fire with fire and actively disadvantaging people through the power of the government.
There are many alternatives to using legislation to further the success of people of color. It can even be done on Trinity’s campus. Members of BSU and TDC felt that a way to promote the success and comfort of black and people of color is the installation of an “Afro Affinity Hall.” This idea did not make sense to many people when they initially heard about it. However, hearing from people who would actually benefit from it can really change how it is viewed. At a predominately white institution it can be harder for people of color to feel a sense of community and an “Afro Affinity Hall” is a way to combat that. Members of BSU believe that “having that space, that community, helps us to have some sense of identity on campus, some sense of community culture.”
If there are attainable solutions such as the “Afro Affinity Hall” to racial barriers, then it falls to those, of all races, who care strongly about civil rights, to work with the administration to achieve these solutions. This is the middle ground that conservatives and liberals can reach. It is not making laws completely conscious of race but it also is not completely ignoring of race.
Overall, this meeting provided two lessons to be learned. The first is that equal, two-sided discussions, elicit the most meaningful understanding of the actual goals and questions of the discussion. The second is that middle ground can be reached on political discussions and that this middle ground can introduce solutions to existing problems.