Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book, Updating to Remain the Same. Chun observes that crisis interrupts habit, and, in response, social actors and innovators respond to crisis by reinventing the old habit as fresh and updated, but more or less, the same. Chun quotes Milton Freidman “‘‘only a crisis— actual or perceived— produces real change.’” However, Chun argues “Crises become ordinary…thwart change and make the present, as Lauren Berlant has put it, an impasse, an affectively intense cul-de-sac.”
The past lives through our everyday habits, and we update to remain the same. No matter how much we think we reinvent, rethink and move away from the patterns that have led us to current harm, we circle around the same problems and dangerous habits. We seek the same solutions, just in new clothes.
When it comes to the need to #IntegrateAmherst, we can apply Chun’s formula to our college policy. Crises and protests, like the current outbreak of coronavirus or the current #IntegrateAmherst campaign, interrupt and highlight discriminatory practices of racism, classism, homophobia, among other things.
Until institutional racism and institutional classism are addressed at the root, we will continue to update, and will find that we have not truly changed. This interruption offers the opportunity to interrupt that cycle.
In the #IntegrateAmherst campaign, the Black Student Union has highlighted how eerily similar these racist incidents and their organizing efforts were to past racist incidents and organizing efforts within the college dating back to the 1950s. In this way, the BSU calls attention to the bizarre feedback loop that Chun illuminates.
Within this vicious cycle, Black students’ pleas for humanity and institutional protection are met with that silenced institutional memory. As the BSU implores, what conclusions must be drawn about leadership and institutions that keep updating to remain the same?