by Anonymous, UWCM Alumni
16th of December, 2022
*All names in this text represent current or former UWCM students but their names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
I am not sure how I came to this realisation, but one day I realised that I am racist. Let me give you some background information. As I live I continuously try to answer the question “who am I?” Sparing you my whole life story at some point I realised that a significant part of who I am was created. It was constructed, meticulously crafted like a sand castle. Part of me can shift and take on new shapes. It is this part of myself that tried to redefine itself when I got to high school. It is this part of myself that so adamantly loves my family and it is this part of myself that so viciously hates a demagogue like Donald Trump. I have always understood this part of myself to be what I call my Identity.
One of the great joys of my life has been getting to know other people. I once had a conversation with a floor mate of mine, Hamza. He said “I don’t think there is a single person on this earth that I can not vibe with.” I think that these are very wise words, but what exactly do they mean? For me they represent our ability to find parts of ourselves in everyone else. Hamza and I come from opposite sides of the world. We have lived completely different lives but the central revelation we had from our conversation that day was the recognition in each other of humanity. Being a human is something that all of us have in common. However, this concept of shared humanity is just a sand castle. It only works to unify us if we both identify ourselves as human beings before anything else.
At UWC we are identified by two things “what is your name and where do you come from.” It goes without saying that these attributes are superficial but what alternative do we have? When I applied to UWC I think I was most excited to be in an environment where I could finally have a common value based identity with other people. When you apply to UWC there is an expectation that you believe that education can be a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for a peaceful and sustainable future. This idea is how Kurt Hahn thought you could get people to end violent conflict. It is how he thought you could end racism, sexism and discrimination of all types. If you can get a group of people from all over the world to agree to reshape a part of their sand castle so that it starts to stand for peace and sustainability then you can invite the whole diversity of humankind to participate in educating one another. However, in the words of my floor mate “if they can’t find anything in common, then they can’t vibe.” So you need to take some stock in the mission statement in order to even take part in the education process that goes on here. Because if you don’t then you won’t have enough in common with other people; you won’t find that bond between people that is the key to unlocking the UWC experience.
However, I am confident that there are many people here who feel uncomfortable agreeing to the mission statement. During black history month I received an email titled Important info please read. Within said email there was a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. saying
“loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance, the white population promptly raises the argument that the negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”
It saddens me to say that this is a reality here at UWC. I have heard endless accounts of teachers silencing black students who try to educate peers about their racist comments. I witnessed and experienced jeers and ridicule at GIFs when some people decide to share perspectives that are not in line with the white liberal world view. The ideology of the school seems to be complicit in the censorship of any perspective that deviates from the eurocentric one that dominates our discourse. This is not to say that it is bad to condemn racism. In fact a number of emails were sent out by various administrators condemning the racism of tearing down the black history month poster. However, these messages effectively censored black students instead of raising their voices. For example a section of one such email reads:
“We should show support for this community by being an ally – speaking up against racism and understanding why we all need to play a part in ridding the world of this scourge.”
Thus disenfranchisement is born because, let’s face it, allies speaking up against racism is exactly the problem. If we keep having allies speaking up against racism then these very same allies will continue as they already do to shout over the voices of black people, stripping them of their power whilst bolstering their own. We will continue to have teachers silence black students in classes when black students attempt to educate their peers about racism. We will continue not to hear black voices at GIF. We will continue to have people tear down black history posters. No voice, no power.
I have spent a lot of time talking to a beloved friend, Viktor from China. He doesn’t mind admitting that he wasn’t well liked by some while he was here. I would like to share with you his explanation for why this is:
“You’re a random non-western kid, you didn’t learn the predominant western discourse, and you hop right into UWC. You immediately start meeting white kids and they come and ask you your name, where you come from, your culture, your story, blah blah. “Oh my god, white people! Their attention is on me! I feel so honoured! This is great, people can actually communicate between culture and stuff, you know, the whole UWC multiculturalism package.” And then you realise that something is off: they are only interested in your story so that they can add it to their story collection, they are fascinated only by the superficial side of your culture. They only seem to be curious about things like traditional festivals, and what you do or don’t eat/dress/play/say……Yet, you sense that they are showing some kind of condescention towards your value and your ways of doing things—(Asians, ah, you study so hard, you only wanna go to better unis, by the way help me do maths/ah, Latinos, you guys are just fun at the parties/sex, you are just my playmate instead of my white counterparts/ Ah, Africans, I just can’t hear your voice because you are not a part of the discourse, and when we mention their culture, we prefer to enjoy the ‘primitivism’, the ‘balance between man and nature’, ‘family’), you know, that kind of shit…
You start to realise the white people’s misunderstanding and their superficial attentions. So you shout, “listen to me! Treat me seriously! I am your equal!” and they look at you in a different way: “of course we are listening! Of course you are our equal counterpart, you just came from a different culture—but it’s ok, we can unite under a universal one.” You angrily replied, “but your universal culture is basically just white culture—we learn your white geography, we do the same economics as you, we party with highly westernised music, god dammit! I am speaking to you in fucking English!” They reply, “oh my god, we aren’t inclusive enough! Why not add some of your superficial festivals and holidays and traditions to our discourse, so everybody can enjoy it? You are a part of it!” This superficial inclusivity leaves you feeling like something is off, but you don’t know what it is. Then the next thing you know, they start to fuse your culture into what they call the “transcendental universal culture”, as if everybody is a part of it but really they are just picking and choosing the parts of your culture that confirm their superiority as the ultimate mediator of good and bad culture. They happily claim that everybody is now included in this inclusive big culture. Now people dance around it as if dancing around the firepit, and claim, “yeahiee! UWC value!” When you don’t see yourself in this big transcendental culture you start to feel disappointed saying “this is kinda absurd”, your friends tell you that “you gotta be open minded and embrace this stuff!”
You feel like you are misrepresented, you are distanced from their chaotic transcendental shit— and you either try to fit in, learn their western discourse, learn to be careful with all your phrasings so that you don’t offend anybody, value what they value, and “actively participate” when they want to hear your story/culture/holiday/food. Or, you try to be cynical, tell yourself, “they aren’t representing me well enough, but whatever, this will happen, they are white people, we will always be perceived as the others, they only want to hear nice stories and cultures and holidays from us, whatever, I am too tired to do this anymore, I don’t have the energy to tell them about my culture, my value, I can’t do this anymore, fuck it”, and so you only hang out with your tiny friend group, probably all from a similar cultural background that has a similar language and feels the similar distortions.”
Thus Viktor is pointing out that our interpretation of UWC values has been polluted by this white western transcendentalism. Transcendentalism means that we are allowing western multiculturalism to moderate what aspects of non western cultures are allowed to be shared and what things aren’t. Thus eurocentrism becomes the sinister backdrop of all our conversations, interactions, romances, and friendships. Therefore no one wants to hear that African culture has this inherent view that white people are racist. No one wants to hear that Viktor’s cultural marxism finds his “ancient chinese wisdom ” to be this backwards and conservative worldview that plagues his society. Since no one wants to hear these things we have created a space where no one is safe to share them.
Viktor would point out how too many people here think of themselves as woke and in so doing shut down any conversation that does not align with their woke world view. This world view is the same as the one represented above and what Viktor calls the “transcendental white culture.” It is a worldview in which poor black students need to be helped and only by speaking on their behalf will they ever reach equality. Furthermore it is a worldview in which only the most privileged voices can liberate the less privileged voices from suffering. By repeating this message over and over again liberals have systematically silenced the voices that they have been claiming to uplift. Many UWC students have closed themselves off from challenging points of view because of the identity of who holds them. I am always reminded how at one GIF Gabrielius and Yuryi were laughed at for sharing their views on pornography. Inherent to this laughter was scorn for any diversity that does not align with western multiculturalism. If you try to tell people here to stop laughing, if you tell them to start listening, they won’t hear you because they are stuck in their own echo chamber. An echo chamber lined with mirrors. There are so many people living in narcissistic ecstasy.
What we have here is a perfect example of fragility. No one here is willing to confront the fact that they aren’t perfect citizens of the world. The fear of being called a racist, a sexist, an ableist or a homophobe is standing in front of any conversation that we could have that could eradicate these scourges. I know this because I have this fear. I am deathly afraid like everyone else of being called a racist because I know that if I am, I will have to confront some really ugly parts of myself. However, I am not going to be complicit in this censorship anymore. So I am a racist, let’s talk so that we can change.