Ashley Harris watched the messages pour into her inbox.
If her friends didn’t feel guilty for doing nothing about past racial incidents when they occurred or outright denied the problem, they were “shocked and awed” that racism was still prevalent — even as Harris endured derogatory comments about her race.
Addressing racial inequality in Montgomery County requires tough conversations because racism is taught directly or indirectly, so anti-racism must also be taught, said Harris, who spoke Thursday during a virtual community conversation on diversity and inclusion in Crawfordsville.
The discussion, led by Wabash College’s Democracy and Public Discourse initiative, was meant to build a greater understanding of the realities of racial injustice in the community, which is 96% white, and foster a greater sense of diversity and inclusion.
“For the first time, I’m hopeful for the future of this community,” Harris said, “a town that all 14 of my father’s siblings left because they were not being treated like friends.”
The City of Crawfordsville and the Mayor’s Special Commission on Racial Equality asked the college to gather input from residents on the local climate of diversity and inclusion. The feedback will be included in a report submitted to the city as early as May.
The events are co-sponsored by Humans United for Equality and the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. Input will also be gathered at an in-person event from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Pike Place. To sign up, go to https://bit.ly/39PRNZB.
Students led a group of about 20-30 people, including educators, members of nonprofits and police officers, in small group discussions over Zoom.
Head Wabash track and field coach Clyde Morgan, a member of the mayor’s commission who also serves as the assistant director of the college’s Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, said students of color find they receive better treatment in public when wearing Wabash college.
“I’ve talked to multiple students on campus that have told me over the years that they’ll be in the car and run back in and grab something with a ‘W’,” said Morgan, who experienced the same thing as a faculty member.
“There is Wabash privilege with that ‘W’,” Morgan added. “You know, why should I be treated a certain way because I’m African American [and] I got a ‘W’ on versus somebody who’s African American and works [in a factory] ... I’m not better than them, but that’s real.”