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CLAP article raises a capella diversity radar

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“The Non-Accidentals: The Voice of White Supremacy,” was the headline of one article featured in last week’s issue of The Clap.

The article, written by Jessica Lartigue ’18, was a satirical advertisement for auditions to join The Accidentals women’s a cappella group. Lartigue submitted the piece after learning that a good friend of hers had not been accepted to join the group, allegedly because of her race.

“The reason why I wrote it was that there was a rumor going around that the reason why they didn’t choose one of my friends for the group was because she didn’t look like them or sound like them,” Lartigue said.

The Accidentals were initially very surprised after reading the submission.

“We were taken aback by the article, because we hadn’t said the things off of which the article was based,” said senior Accidental member Emily Massell.

The group decided to meet with Lartigue to discuss the issue.

Both Lartigue and Accidentals members agreed that the meeting was productive and peace-building in affirming that this rumor was, in fact, only a rumor.

“We really were trying to understand instead of be understood,” said Accidental member Emily Thomas ’17. “We’ve just all throughout this been trying to be as receptive and open to this conversation as possible.”

But, although she wrote the article in response to what turned out to be a misunderstanding, Lartigue still believes that there is too little racial diversity within Carleton’s a cappella groups.

While this could be attributed to the fact that minorities statistically make up a smaller proportion of the student body, Lartigue suspects part of the problem may be that people of color do not feel welcome to audition for mostly white a cappella groups.

“I think if you’re a minority on a majority white campus, you do one of three things – you either drop out, you stick to your minority community, or you branch out and you do really well. And I just feel like a lot  of us are afraid to branch out. We’re afraid to go into these majority white communities,” Lartigue said.

As one of the only two people of color in The Knights, Ethan Dayton ’17 understands this viewpoint.

“We as groups project an image to people,” Dayton said. “You know there are issues of institutionalized oppression that have been going on for people of color. And it’s not that people are saying that people in a cappella are racist, but a lot of people of color have faced very difficult issues of having the game against them.”

Though groups have discussed the issue, conversations on the topic have typically been difficult to broach.

“[The Knights] have only had one conversation about it,” Dayton said. “I think that it’s such a touchy issue, it’s very hard to talk about, especially if you’re not familiar with talking about race in your daily conversation. So I think that that’s made it hard.”

Lartigue hopes that her article, while initially geared towards a specific group, will serve to spark a broader campus conversation regarding the lack of racial diversity in all student a cappella groups. So far, she has been pleased with the results.

“I don’t regret writing the article at all,” Lartigue said. “It may have hurt some feelings, but I don’t regret writing it for the sole fact that now that I wrote the article, people on campus are talking about diversity in a cappella groups. There are literally no black people in any of the a cappella groups.”

The question that a cappella group members are now asking themselves is what, if anything, can be done about the skewed demographic that currently exists.

The first step appears to be soliciting a more diverse pool of student in auditions, and The Knights and The Accidentals have begun brainstorming strategies for creating a space in which people of all races feel comfortable trying out.

“Events at the students activities fair can definitely do a better job of being more active [and] of having a more active role in getting the great- est number of people to audition that we can,” Dayton said.

The Knights have discussed possibilities for outreach and coordination with the Office of Intercultural and International Life to encourage musically inclined OIIL members to audition for the group. 

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