Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Learning is hard. Change is hard. But, wow, after all the #chapeltweets, #tweetunity, prayer circles, and conversation, you'd think we'd pick up a few things. I did not attend the President's Ball, the formal Wheaton College dance held Monday night, but I heard one troubling thing. I would love to hear that this did not happen, but the account is that in the midst of top-40 radio pop hits (think Katy Perry), a student requested a salsa song, which was promptly booed. I don't know how many booed the song, but really? Perhaps people were boo-ing everything they did not like that evening, although I doubt it. Perhaps it wasn't a boo at all, but lots of people doing cow imitations at the same time. If it was a boo, however, it is yet another instance of the disregard some have for anyone and any thing in the Wheaton community different from themselves.

I don't even need to get into the question of whether boo-ing salsa songs is racist (it is), to say that it is not nice. It is not a way to communicate concern for anyone but one's self. Even if it had no minority racial component at all - if people boo-ed a country song, say - it is mean to tell people at the same party, who also payed money, who are your fellow students, to boo the things they like because they're not what you like.

David Anderson, a pastor of a large multiethnic congregation in Maryland, wrote a short book recently with the catchy title Gracism: The Art of Inclusion. The book has a single point, taken from I Corithians 12, that there are members of the Body of Christ who are more vulnerable than others. It is the duty, calling, and self-referential privilege of those who are not vulnerable to care for those who are.

I do not know how many people wanted to hear a salsa song at the President's Ball, but I suspect it was a minority. I suspect many of those who were happy to hear a salsa song were in fact actual minorities. I also suspect that they did not feel cared for when their classmates booed. I doubt they felt appreciated, that people were glad to have salsa lovers at the ball. Setting aside any questions of racism, I would be interested to hear someone argue, from a Christian point of view, that it's OK to boo when you hear a song you don't want to dance to.

Tired of talking about racism? Think it's time to move on? I think it's time to move on also. But I won't move on when so many people would clearly get left behind.


Anonymous said...

The more I get to know Wheaton College, the more it becomes scary!

Brian Howell said...

I know how it looks, but with our problems, I still believe this conversation is healthier at Wheaton than at many other, seemingly more "progressive" places I have been. For a good perspective on Wheaton's particular place in this, see http://www.millinerd.com/2012/02/one-testimony-about-race.html