Thursday, November 12, 2015

Because this matters & I won't stay quiet.

I’ve kept my mouth shut for a decently long time regarding the racial issues on campus as of late.  Word vomit and fury tend to be my go-to reactions to such conversations, which are reactions that will only hurt the cause I stand by.  But the need to say something has become too powerful for me to keep quiet as these issues intensify. 

For every one of my friends and family who I have spoken with about these things, I love you, but I also want to wipe the fog from you glasses.  Can you look in the mirror ? Do you see a face looking back at you that has experienced little adversity as a result of white skin and for most of you, living in a middle socioeconomic class?  Also - no, this is NOT REVERSE RACISM, because reverse racism does NOT exist. But because of the fact that you are indeed privileged and white, you have no idea what people of color are actually going through with these issues, if they actually feel safe on our campus and on campuses nationwide, and therefore, do not have the right to speak for them and act like their cause isn’t real or worthwhile, or as if its inappropriate publicity for the college.  Racism is indeed, a thriving force in the US.  We cannot continue to speak in a naïve, passive voice that continues to refute this fact.  And if you are not a person of color or belong to an oppressed minority, you will never encounter what REAL racism is.

I don’t come from some omniscient, lofty standpoint – I’m sure I say racist things everyday without even realizing it.  I grew up as a white woman in a racist society, and I have work to do to properly view my place in society from an unprivileged perspective.  And while by no means am I condoning expressions of racism, we need to accept that our culture is indeed racist, and that we have work to do in recognizing this and fixing it. 

If you come from an opposing standpoint, you can at least listen to what the protestors and POC are saying, and try and educate yourself on the issues before speaking out in opposition. Yea, being politically correct and understanding a different perspective takes some work.  It takes self-censorship, research, education, and an open mind.  And if you’re not willing to do the work to counter such racism and other social issues, then that truly speaks to your privilege. 

To the issues specific to Ithaca, I’d like to bring light to a few things:
  1.  While I did not attend one of the first "No Confidence" protests (the one that took place in the A&E center), the main thing I heard about it from my peers was that the students speaking walked out before Rochon spoke.  This created bad publicity for the event, yet this is what many white people (I’m not going to lie about this demographic) on our campus remember from it.  I agree that walking out did not create a two-sided argument, but don’t hold on to this one bad happening from an event that had so much more meaning behind it than a group of people walking out on the President.  If you’ve realized that the side of the argument that favors Rochon has not been as outspoken, that’s because that’s the status quo.  That’s how things currently are, and whether or not you feel safe on our campus doesn’t apply to how the people of color feel.  Last November, do you remember how the media almost primarily featured news regarding the Ferguson protests and violence that erupted as a result of the decision? This is what people tended to comment on the most, along with their disgust at the burning of the American Flag.  The actual decision regarding the trial should have been the topic of discussion; not the burning of a piece of cloth our society has brought us up to praise mercilessly.  The same thing applies to that first protest at IC.  The walkout on the president aside, the speakers were talking about something important; how they felt as a result of the racially charged comments made during the past events, and their frustration with the lack of action. That’s what should have been taken out of this. The real purpose behind this event.  
  2. These issues didn't just happen overnight.  The Blue Sky Kickoff and the racist party description created by the fraternity brought more attention to issues that have been happening for years. This is NOT the first time Rochon has been approached with the issue of microaggressions and racism on campus.  He does in fact have control over the training of public safety, which could ban their use of the racially aggressive language brought to our attention by RAs and students.  The fraternity that posted the racist party description affiliates itself with the college, even though the college doesn’t affiliate itself with the fraternity, but the President has the power to ensure that the frat cuts all of their ties to IC. And if you haven't seen why the Blue Sky Kickoff was so alarming and uncomfortable, you should take one minute to check it out: 

The culmination of these events over the semester, coupled with the ongoing racism that’s been present on campus for years, have finally lead to the forefront of this discussion.  And NECESSARY protests created to get things done, not a gathering of students taking the issues out of control. Action that Rochon could have taken was not, which is why many students, professors, and faculty do not have confidence in his leadership.  Myself included.

If I offended any of my friends or family with this, I’m not sorry.  I say these things because I not only care about the issues, but because I care about you and want to see you take part in building a progressive society.  You may think these protests are getting out of control, but they’re getting attention, which is exactly what such issues need.  And if you choose not to put the work into educating yourself on these issues, then so be it.  But speaking out in opposition of something you don’t have the knowledge to talk about is embarrassing.  You have the right to speak out in opposition without fact-checking first, but be ready for the criticism that will surely follow.  

No comments:

Post a Comment