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A Letter to Our President from Janel Park

Chalk illustration on ground during silent protest. (Photo by Mackenzie Fargo)
Chalk illustration on ground during silent protest. (Photo by Mackenzie Fargo)

To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter to the Office of the President of Mills College in response to recent issues around race, prejudice and bigotry raised on our own college campus. Though much admirable and humbling activism has been initiated by the Black Women’s Collective in direct response to a murderous, hateful and racist comment written by an anonymous member and then deliberately publicised on the Mills College Confessions Facebook page, the issues brought to light regarding this event have been a part of an ongoing and ever-present narrative of racism and cultural ignorance that I have witnessed since my own introduction to the Mills college campus six semesters ago.

Though I can not speak to the experiences of others who sought their paths of higher education at Mills college, I can say that I personally came to this college in search of a  foundation of equity and social justice upon which to build my professional career as an educator of the young people of our country, as well as a passionate advocate for prestigious public education for all. I cherish and value the education that Mills college has given me through which I have deepened my passion for my future profession and strengthened my own voice to take with me into a society riddled with a plethora of social injustices that must be continually addressed, discussed and resolved.

However, this can not negate the prolific instances of cultural insensitivity, racism and prejudice I have both experienced and witnessed on this very college campus I proudly call my Alma Mater as I continue to work on my second degree at Mills College. I went through a very unexpected phase of culture shock upon beginning my journey at this school, mainly due to the stark contrast of the image of Mills college that is marketed to the general public via pamphlets, informational sessions, the Mills college website and the reality of attending an institution that was established in 1865, nearly a whole century before the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

The face of racism has changed. It is no longer an angry mob of white men in white hoods burning crosses while terrifying and murdering innocent people based on the color of their skin (although this is easily arguable given the shamefully endless instances of police brutality and baseless murders of Black people; Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and Steven Eugene Washington, just to name a few). Contemporary racism more commonly comes in the form of covert racism through cultural insensitivity, microaggressions, prejudiced assumptions and a dominant mainstream narrative that only validates specific groups of people while continuing to alienate the “others.”

Mills college is no exception to the pitfalls of modern-day, institutionalized racism. Though our mission statement as a school embodies an ethic of social justice and cultural, racial and ethnic diversity, the reality for many of the students of color on our campus tells a different tale. It is time for us to practice what we preach; to not only “talk the talk” but “walk the walk.”

It is for these reasons, that I, Janel Park,  graduate of the Mills college psychology department and current candidate for a master’s in education through the Mills teachers for tomorrow schools, stand in solidarity with the demands of the Black Women’s Collective and urgently insist on the immediate implementation of the BWC’s Mills college Black students’ list of demands.



Janel Park

For more related posts, check out The Campanil‘s designated web page for our ongoing protest coverage.