Late Friday afternoon we reported on the racially-segregated diversity program at Hamilton College, my alma mater, Hamilton College segregates diversity program by race.

We documented how Hamilton had scheduled the “Real Talk” program with separate discussion meetings by race, with the fall semester only for “people of color” and the spring semester only for “whites”:

“In order to create a safe space, this program is open to people of color only.  A similar conversation for white students, faculty and staff is planned for the spring semester.”

Hamilton College Real Talk Program - Highlighted

Our report created a great deal of attention, with the story being picked up many places, and shared almost 1000 times on Facebook and retweeted over 200 times on Twitter.

Hamilton’s Director of Diversity,  Amit Taneja, never responded to my questions:

“Can you tell my why Hamilton has segregated the discussions by race, and whether the College believes such a segregation is consistent with Hamilton’s diversity goals.”

It appears that the sunlight was too much, as Hamilton has done away with the program, and instead will hold a racially-integrated program about how to discuss race.

The following email was sent out at 8:33 p.m. Sunday night (emphasis added):

Dear Hamilton Community Members:

Over the weekend, I have had a range of reactions to my invitation to the Real Talk Dialogue series – an idea that emerged from discussions with students. The goal was to facilitate dialogue across and within racial groups through a three-part series of incremental conversations. My intent was to be inclusive but my phrasing suggested otherwise. I think it is a good idea now to pause and reflect on how we structure conversations about race. As a result, I invite all interested members of the community to come to a re-envisioned dialogue this Thursday at 4:15 p.m. to address two central questions: What does a meaningful dialogue about race look like? How can we best structure such a dialogue? Together we can figure out how to proceed in ways that make clear the inclusiveness of our community and our collective commitment to equity, understanding and mutual respect.

Warmly,

Amit Taneja
Director, Diversity & Inclusion

While it’s interesting that Hamilton has reacted, the reaction is less than forthcoming. The problem was not “phrasing.” The phrasing was clear: “this program is open to people of color only.”

If the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem, Hamilton has not taken the first step.

The problem was not just the segregated discussion, but the obsession with race by college officials at Hamilton and elsewhere, which perpetuates racial classifications as a dividing line for everything.