Wheaton’s campus bustled with activity on the chilly evening of Tuesday, Sept. 30. Solidarity Cabinet and Arena Theater partnered together to create a game night, a “social simulation,” drawing 40-50 students out of the cold and into the Phelps room to explore racial and ethnic identity through physical movement and stories. The game night’s purpose was to start conversation, and chair of Solidarity junior Sammy Mallow hoped that “people would leave having been accepted and validated for who they are as a child of God.”
As students filled the dimly lit Phelps room, Solidarity Cabinet and senior Sophia Jenkins from Arena Theater instructed them to grab a snack and fill out sticky notes with the first race or ethnicity that came into their minds as they saw the red and white labels of “Christian,” “millionaire,” “professional athlete,” “genius,” “immigrant,” and “gang member.” It was a lesson in stereotypes that was explained at the event’s conclusion.
Participants played three games including “Mingle-Mingle,” “Where I Come From,” and a human sculpting game. In “Mingle-Mingle,” the students walked haphazardly to maintain the area of a circle. Jenkins instructed students to form a group with other students who were wearing the same clothing articles, like similar shoes. Groups formed silently, and Jenkins then asked each group to shout its name without discussing it. Students noticed that the game involved exclusivity, disagreement and confusion about who they were as a group. It was a lesson in identity.
“Where I Come From” was an exploration into each student’s diverse background. Participants sat in a large circle of chairs with one person in the middle. The person in the center would share a statement beginning with the words “Where I Come From” and fill in the blank with a story related to their family or values. Everyone who felt similarly would rise from their seats and race to a new chair. Whoever could not find a chair shared his or her statement next.
Before the participants left for the evening, Mallow revisited the stereotype wall with its six categories and a host of hot pink, light blue, yellow-green and other colorful sticky notes. “It’s remarkable because it’s clear what race is associated with each stereotype,” Sammy Mallow said, adding that the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.
Representing Solidarity, Mallow said, “Our focus is more on the interpersonal side of racial injustice as it relates to indirect prejudice and unconscious prejudice and discrimination that happens on a daily, commonplace level … We are still going to talk about the systemic and structural nationwide and worldwide racial injustice, because when it comes down to it, you can’t separate those two. It’s just that our focus will be more interpersonal. I’m seeing that as the vacuum that needs to be filled most.”
Jenkins from Arena Theater noted that not everybody can take an anthropology class to learn about race and cultural identity, but people can have a conversation with a friend to talk about racial and ethnic identity. “In a lot of conversations I’ve had, people really asked for safe spaces and for conversations to happen within relationship. I think that’s really when change and reconciliation happens — in relationship.”
Public relations coordinator for Solidarity Cabinet senior Mariel Beausejour said that the event was, “powerful because it was extremely disarming. People didn’t have … barriers up. We were able to celebrate differences, and we were also able to mourn things that are difficult.”