There are some really cool traditions around here. Typical of me to say that, I suppose, when I am one of the primary members of the celebrated Homecoming Court, in the 150th year of the college no less. I was beyond honored to be elected by the campus to wear the Gustie crown. Thanks for that, y’all.
Another cool tradition coming up fast is the Festival of Saint Lucia. For those of you who don’t know, the celebration identifies five sophomore women at Gustavus who embody the values of St. Lucia, and sophomore women get to vote. It might look at first glance to be another kind of Homecoming Court, but it goes deeper than that.
Saint Lucy was a rockstar, a martyr in every sense of the word. She faced tremendous adversity because of her Christian beliefs in a time and place where they were unpopular (Italy, 300 A.D.). The Pagans burned her at the stake, which, according to legend, she survived unharmed thanks to the power of God. So, they had to find other gruesome ways to kill her, and they succeeded. Her story is widely known throughout the western world, thanks to the Catholic Church, which eventually granted her sainthood. Lutherans have even declared her the Patron Saint of Sweden, so it’s no surprise that Gustavus celebrates this Swedish tradition every year.
But there is a problem. Representation for this esteemed position on campus has been reserved for white people. Look at the elected court in the last 15 years and you will find no more than one person of color. This lack of representation for a large portion of our Gustavus student body makes me very uncomfortable, and it has to do with the voting process.
This is not to say that the people previously elected to the court who happen to be white are not deserving of this honor. Quite the contrary. My sister was on the court last year, and she’s pretty freaking cool. She’s been doing things as Co-president of Campus Activities Board that I certainly am not capable of, and I am so proud of her. What I mean to say is that practically every woman on this campus is deserving of this honor simply by merit of being here and actively participating in her own personal growth, and in turn, building a better future for everyone. So why has recognition been limited to women with white skin?
There are still lines being drawn on this campus, boxes that categorize people, and they sustain inequality. I am confident that the majority of white people on this campus have not stepped foot in the Diversity Center of their own accord. I say this to draw a connection to the lack of intermingling between white people and people of color. More so, it has affected the voting process to passively exclude all sorts of people who do not fit the mold, who do not look the part.
Something has got to change if we are truly going to participate in the movement toward a just and equal world for all. The Guild of Saint Lucia elects people of color to their group. Maybe they should be responsible for electing the court. That might help level the playing field so that all sophomore women have an equal chance of being recognized regardless of their skin color, visibility on campus or popularity. That certainly isn’t the case with student voting. If we continue to justify the reasons why white faces are continually and exclusively seen on the St. Lucia court, nothing will change, and that’s not an option.
Our campus continually struggles with the values we aspire to and our values in reality. At the moment we are choosing unfairly through a voting process that relies on popularity and excludes those who aren’t a part of the status quo. So, sophomores, prove me wrong! I would be thrilled to eat my words this year and every year to follow. That’s putting a lot of pressure on y’all, but the result is worth the struggle. Heavy lies the crown, as they say. Or in this case, the holly wreath.