An Open Letter To Colgate Student Athletes
More Love, Less Hate and Go ‘Gate
*this is not to minimize or negate the complicity and pain that non-student athletes may feel and/or perpetuate, rather this is a letter directed at white student athletes and student athletes of color*
To All Colgate Student Athletes:
The beauty of the athletic community is that it helps bridge people regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Sports allow individuals who may not necessarily come from the same background to come together and work toward a common goal. In doing so it helps break down barriers between people of different races and classes and helps to mitigate some of the race-related stereotypes that exist on campus. This is not to say that racism is wholly absent in athletics, but Colgate Athletics’ capacity to bring together different types of people is a unification tool that is not necessarily seen anywhere else on campus.
As such, student athletes of color in particular have the privilege of having a built in community throughout the four years at Colgate that other students of color do not necessarily have. Student athletes of color may not necessarily be affected as badly as other people of color on campus because we are privileged with having this community and are socially isolated by it. But while this communal status is extremely beneficial and helpful, it can also be damaging. Many student athletes of color including myself (not all, as there are student athletes of color who are extremely vocal) who are sheltered by their athletic communities have the option to tune out some of the racist issues happening elsewhere on campus. By staying silent and being complicit, we further perpetuate the systemic issues that occur on campus.
Personally, because I am Asian and my lack of an accent allows me to “pass” as white, my identity is whitewashed and thus privileged in many ways that other people of color’s identities are not. I, as considered a model minority, a student athlete who is in a cisgender relationship with a white male student athlete, and as a sorority member I have been complicit for most of my time here at Colgate. I hold myself accountable to the choices I have made and am aware of my social location and its associated privileges. Yet I know that I am not the only student athlete that is complicit and I encourage other student athletes — especially student athletes of color — to consider their positionality and its privileges, and speak up.
Because I think that if we as a whole campus want to improve the climate here we must start with our own athlete community. Like what President Casey mentioned, teamwork has taught us how to take care of each other. But our roles as white student athletes and student athletes of color who altogether hold a lot of social capital on campus should not stop there. We are not here merely to react, but also to prevent. So to those who are not already doing so, I encourage us all to consider our social locations, participate in open dialogues, stand in solidarity and speak up about implicit and explicit racism that occurs both within athletics and on campus.
Hennie Claire Basubas Cabuhay