In Our September, 2017 Issue:

Editorial: Respond to Charlottesville with RIGR

by

Metro State seems so far from the fray. Our cam­puses hold no sym­bols of the Con­fed­er­acy and white supremacy. Our library’s rain­bow signs declare “All Are Wel­come” in Eng­lish, Ara­bic, Hmong, Somali and Span­ish. Our col­lege class­rooms are filled with per­haps the most diverse stu­dent body in the state of Minnesota.

We are every color and creed. We are allies. Together, we forge an anti-​racist community.

Char­lottesville could never hap­pen here.

And yet…

Some­one scrawled racist graf­fiti in a restroom in the Library and Learn­ing Cen­ter in Decem­ber 2014.

Every year, a mem­ber of the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity is rec­og­nized with the Anti-​Racism Legacy Award. Past recip­i­ents include Pro­fes­sor Nantawan Lewis, Eth­nic and Reli­gious Stud­ies, and Pro­fes­sor Daniel Abebe, Indi­vid­u­al­ized Studies.

We rightly honor them. They do right­eous work. But does the fact that they work so hard expose an under­ly­ing and trou­bling truth? Per­haps they work so hard because we are not the com­mu­nity we think we are?

We must acknowl­edge the fight for jus­tice is far from over— on every cam­pus, in every com­mu­nity, south­ern or north­ern, homoge­nous or diverse. So we can­not not rest on our lau­rels at Metro State. In the torch­lit face of Char­lottesville, we must ask: what can we do?

Words are wel­come. Pres­i­dent Arthur issued a strong state­ment of sol­i­dar­ity with the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia. She called out white supremacy, Neo-​Nazism and the Ku Klux Klan by name. There was no moral equiv­a­lency sug­gested here at Metro State; no “many sides.”

But words alone are not enough. We — we stu­dents — must take action. If we want to live and learn as an anti-​racist com­mu­nity, we can’t just wish that into being. We must cre­ate it with RIGR.

Metro State imple­mented the Racial Issues Grad­u­a­tion Require­ment (RIGR) for all incom­ing stu­dents start­ing fall 2016. RIGR-​approved classes are a min­i­mum of 3 cred­its and focus on race and racism.

The Min­nesota State system’s Office of Equity and Inclu­sion hon­ored RIGR with their award for best prac­tices in Feb­ru­ary 2017. When he vis­ited our cam­pus in July, Interim Chan­cel­lor Devin­der Mal­ho­tra lauded RIGR as “a good model… that exposes all stu­dents to a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how to live and learn in a diverse world.”

We can hope other insti­tu­tions will fol­low our lead and develop a racial issues require­ment of their own; but first we must show that we as stu­dents embrace it. We must reg­is­ter for RIGR.

There are 35 RIGR-​designated courses or sec­tions offered this fall semes­ter alone. Most are upper divi­sion, and can ful­fill other GELS require­ments. Not sur­pris­ingly, many Eth­nic Stud­ies classes meet RIGR require­ments. But so do some courses in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, Man­age­ment, Psy­chol­ogy, Social Work, Writ­ing and more. There are RIGR courses for every­one, no mat­ter their major.

RIGR is not about indoc­tri­na­tion; it is about respect. RIGR does not mean rigid­ity; it means credibility.

So let’s fill every sec­tion of every RIGR class with stu­dents. And not just those of us admit­ted since fall 2016 for whom it’s a require­ment. Make it your pri­or­ity to fit it in your sched­ule. Sit up front, engage with your pro­fes­sor and your class­mates. Meet the demands of a RIGR class and face your “per­sonal, moral, civic, and pro­fes­sional respon­si­bil­i­ties” to respond to racism.

There were ugly, dev­as­tat­ing days this sum­mer; there may be more ahead. But don’t stay home and eat cake. Get to class.