Last week the “I, Too, Am Harvard” effort exposed an under-discussed side of our university. Through a powerful photo campaign, Harvard students shared their personal experiences in confronting racism and sparked a dialogue on campus. We stand behind the “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign’s call to identify and combat prejudice.
Initially motivated in response to a Crimson column, “Affirmative Dissatisfaction,” in fall 2012, many students of color felt the need to engage and defend their very presence on campus. Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence ’16 interviewed over 40 black students and, using their words, wrote a play that would reflect the collective experiences of the community through dramatic monologues. “I, Too, Am Harvard” quickly became a movement that captured attentions on campus and across the nation.
“I, Too, Am Harvard” has reminded us all that this country—and even this campus—is not post-racial. It is 2014, and still, black students face offensive comments about their skin, hair, identity, and intellectual capacity. Indeed, as the photo campaign revealed, a black Harvard student can still walk across our campus today and hear the words, “Can you read?”
It should be the university’s top priority to ensure that no student feels alienated on campus. Whether that is accomplished through improved and more frequent Community Conversations or the creation of safe spaces dedicated to improving race relations, the university should constantly reevaluate how to foster an environment that is inclusive for all.
The campaign has also reminded us that student initiatives can have a real, nationwide impact. Still, it does not take a million views on BuzzFeed or a front-page article in the Boston Globe to make students aware about what is happening on campus. Last week, over 35 undergraduate and graduate students attended a town hall meeting to discuss frustrations with the university’s perceived lack of support for the Latino community on campus. People who feel alienated on campus should feel comfortable sharing their experiences and continuing this campus-wide dialogue.
We support the message of “I, Too, Am Harvard” because the situation will not improve until those who are not aware of these issues are made aware. The more we talk about these types of experiences, the more informed we all will be—and the better Harvard will be because of it.