Last week, on February 9, 2017, Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva gave the annual W.E.B. DuBois lecture, titled “The Diversity Blues”. In his lecture, Dr. Bonilla-Silva discussed historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs) in the U.S. and the need for such schools to work towards new definitions of diversity and inclusion. He argued that in the absence of such changes, students of color would suffer, as it is hard to be a student, staying in a home where you have no history.
Dr. Bonilla-Silva began the lecture by differentiating between what mainstream U.S. culture often thinks of as racism (i.e. overt beliefs that people of color are inferior) and the issue of systemic racism, which is racism so embedded into our social institutions that many people fail to recognize it. Dr. Bonilla-Silva has covered this idea extensively in his book, Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. He is outspoken about the idea that racist incidents are not about ‘a few bad apples’ but the whole apple tree, and he outlined how HWCUs perpetuate such incidents through their very structure, culture, and curriculum – even those that deem themselves “multicultural”.
Throughout the lecture, Dr. Bonilla-Silva emphasized the importance of speaking openly and honestly about race and racism, recognizing the full history of racism in the U.S., and pushing for real change in the systems that perpetuate racist agendas. In the end, Professor Bonilla-Silva gave five important steps to achieve a deep diversity at HWCUs. He claimed that universities need to realize diversity blues are caused by systemic racism, that colleges need to be willing to “experiment to create a space where racial democracy and racial justice can flourish”, that we need to challenge narratives of color-blindness, to local the struggle for diversity within its national context, and by recognizing that social movements by people of color and white allies demanding that colleges do the right thing will be at the center of achieving a real deep diversity.
During the last portion of the event, Dr. Bonilla Silva discussed the importance of recognizing the value in different kinds of knowledge, and spent time answering students’ questions, which ranged in topic from cultural appropriation to fighting inequality unified with other marginalized groups.
The event was co-sponsored by Women and Gender Studies, African/African American Studies, and University Life.
February 16, 2017