In light of the continuing conversation on race and ethnicity, the Intercultural Programs (ICP) begins a new initiative this spring semester called “ICP Roundtables.” The creation of the Roundtables enables the six Intercultural Organizations (ICO’s), Asian Student Association (ASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Global & International Student Association (GISA), Multi-Ethnic Student Association (MESA), Latinx Culture Organization (LCO), and White Students for Racial Justice (WRJ), to initiate a productive dialogue within a multicultural, inter-organizational learning environment.
Jason Cha, the Director of ICP, expresses: “[We] have been exploring the question of how we can foster inter-organizational learning and dialogue between our six intercultural orgs. Some of this initiative is loosely based on the InterGroup Dialogue program from schools like the University of Michigan and UCLA. Our six intercultural orgs were primarily only interacting at our fall retreat [ICP Connect], and spring The Next Step workshop, so we wanted to create more opportunities for learning and dialogue for our organizations and anyone else interested in diversity and equity issues.”
On Monday, Jan. 13, ICP hosted their initial discussion on the image of White Jesus — Westmont’s White Jesus in particular. The discussion, titled “Westmont White Jesus: A Hindrance to the Witness of the Gospel?” took place in Founders Room. The six organizations mingled with one another before watching a brief video on how and where the image of White Jesus came to fruition within the church and what it means for the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
Following the video, third-year student Brendan Fong provided context for Westmont’s White Jesus. He and Jason Cha shared the timeline and the reactions following last spring’s events about the stained-glass window in the prayer chapel.
With the background information given, members of the different organizations interacted with one another, whether pushing back or expanding each other’s perspectives. When asked why this was a good initial topic, Cha says that the “white depiction of Jesus in our prayer chapel is crucial to how effective we are in our Christian witness and the advancement of the gospel … marked by imperialism, colonialism, and empire.” He later notes that to move beyond this history of oppression, there must be discussions bringing a social consciousness on how these white depictions bring “a limited view of the gospel and simply perpetuates racial hierarchy.”
ICP plans to open up other topics to encourage constructive dialogue. Some potential topics that the program might explore in the future include, “Beyond a Token POC, When YOU are the ONLY: Problematic tokenizing and how we can move beyond tokenized thinking,” “‘Good White People:’ Racism as individual moralism and the need to move beyond being non-racist and towards being anti-racist,” and “Killing the White Supremacist in Myself: decolonizing our minds (POC included).” ICP plans on hosting these conversations on a bi-weekly basis and revealing each topic theme the previous week.
When asked about the future of the roundtables, Cha answered that “the Roundtables will only be as successful as our six ICO’s are invested in showing up and engaging in dialogue around race and justice.”
The Roundtables are open to all faculty, staff, and students. Conversations will take place every other Monday at 7 p.m. in Founders.
Cha raised the question: “Is Westmont’s campus ready to start showing up and digging deeper?”