Diversity is often a subject that people subconsciously shy away from out of fear of unintentionally offending others. But by not taking part in conversations about race and culture, we as a community are overlooking one of the greatest opportunities we have here at Skidmore; to learn and to teach one another about what makes us who we are. Raíces, one of the diversity clubs on campus, confronts these opportunities head-on, and hopes to make others feel more comfortable—and competent—when talking about race and diversity.
The club, whose primary focus is educating others about latino culture and heritage, is far from exclusive. In fact, “one of our biggest accomplishments is how we’ve managed to create a larger audience this year,” says club member of Public Relations Wilson Espinal, ’17. “Everyone’s opinion counts,” elaborates Angela Paulino, ’17, another member of the Public Relations team. Espinal offers words of encouragement to students who may feel uncomfortable or ambivalent about joining the conversation: “A lot of people tell us that they don’t have roots worth exploring. We like to emphasize that your roots are what shape you into who you are today.”
What students may not realize is that even by attending a meeting, they are making a sizable impact towards the goals of the club. This year, a specific focus has been educating students about micro-aggressions, which are essentially unintentional racist comments that may seem appropriate to the speaker. By fostering conversations about what micro-aggressions look like and how they affect others, the club hopes to stop the behavior.
Recently, the club hosted a week of events called Mis Raíces Son Week. There were film screenings, as well as hands-on art projects like painting the windows in the dining hall and constructing a tree out of paper in Case Center. The most successful event was the dining hall painting, because the location made it possible to reach out to a great number of students, and gave people ways to express their identities in a creative and fun way. “Many students and staff members were excited to take advantage of such an opportunity,” reflects club President Keldwin Taveras, ’17.
The campus community can look forward to an array of exciting Raíces events in the future. Currently, the club is planning a talent show where students can perform. In addition, Raíces will host a parade-themed party before Fun Day called Vivir Mi Vida. Collaborations with the dining hall regarding a themed dinner are also a possibility. In any case, the club will continue to strive according to its mission, “primarily to act as a resource to students of Latino backgrounds, and secondarily to promote awareness of Latino culture, history, philosophies, people and other facets.”