When a school, such as Andover, has an Admissions Office that prints off countless brochures advertising the percentage of minorities at the school and an entire office devoted to dealing with multicultural topics, race becomes an issue that is impossible to ignore. At Andover, race and how it plays into our lives constantly remains at the forefront of our community’s thought. In my time at Andover, I have heard many different people question the need for the CAMD Office and the numerous speakers, workshops and events that address racial relations. I myself have questioned the need for the CAMD Office and its multicultural clubs at one time, even though I am a member of a “minority race.” Despite my former doubt, I now believe that the CAMD office is an extremely valuable resource to the Andover community.
In my experience, in comparison to other communities, Andover is extremely open-minded on the subject of race. This year alone, several of our peer schools experienced incidents of hateful actions motivated by race, events reminiscent of attitudes of the decades before the Civil Rights Movement. Andover has yet to face an incident like the one St. Paul’s is currently experiencing, in which hate mail was sent to racial minorities, but our community still has work ahead of it. Ignorance about other cultures is prevalent on campus; I, for example, had never interacted with an Asian person before attending Andover. Furthermore, after last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day All-School Meeting, I discovered that a new student, who happened to be a friend of mine, did not believe that racism exists in our modern day society. This friend believed that the meeting’s speaker was simply digging up the past, obsessing over old issues and preventing the progress of our modern-day minorities. I disagreed.
Also, even where ignorance is not present, flawed assumptions still exist. As I used the computers in George Washington Hall last Saturday, I heard a student justify his assumptions, saying, “I know it’s extremely stereotypical. But I’m from Lawrence, so I can say it.”
The CAMD Office is charged with a very difficult job. Educating an entire student body about the identities of their fellow students and promoting acceptance is no small task; their other primary task, providing support to minority students, is in no way simple. Nonetheless, the office does an excellent job, constantly adapting to the expressed needs and concerns of Andover students. For example, the office has recently supported the formation of the clubs CAFÉ and Alianza Latina, as well as the affinity group Mosaic. Despite the Office’s work, there are still students who believe that the CAMD Office is a waste and emphasizes identity issues too much. However, if freshmen have never met Asians or Latinos or even African Americans, and if St. Paul’s School still has incidents of hate mail, the CAMD Office is necessary to sustain an open, honest community.
This honesty is perhaps CAMD’s greatest legacy. Here on campus, I have witnessed many discussions that, in other locations, could easily have become hostile. However, at Andover, we are taught to maintain a sensitivity to others while still being honest. Programs such as CAMD Scholars and CAFÉ help to facilitate these discussions, which are the norm at Andover. These accomplishments are critical, and if the Andover community truly desires to move beyond superficial cultural differences, we must continue to engage in such open dialogue.