I really enjoyed the exercise we did in class with Michelle Obama’s portraits. I think it undeniably showed that there doesn’t have to be any reason or basis for insulting/slandering/hating someone, except for the color of their skin. This reminded me of a conversation I had in “The Language Revolution” with Prof. Russell: during one of our class sessions we were talking about slurs and several students were trying to argue that words like “asshole” were comparable to the n-word because one could list stereotypes associated with the n-word that weren’t about race. They were arguing that the n-word could be de-contextualized enough to be used referring to anyone. This baffled me. I literally stopped the class, without being called on and without waiting for permission, to clarify the problem in this faulty logic. Here’s what I said: If someone is acting like an asshole, regardless of their skin color, then they can be called an asshole (e.g. “That asshole spilled coffee on my books and didn’t apologize”). The n-word requires no such justification. If a family is sitting at a picnic table eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wearing vineyard vines, they still run the risk of being slurred and attacked without any justification other than their pigment. The fact that anyone could argue that the n-word isn’t racially charged is simply ignorant, but in a very dangerous way.
I also want to rehash an idea I brought up regarding ‘solo spaces’ and the role of allies. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because I’ve noticed a marked change in demeanor and candor when I’m present vs not (based on what others have told me). I believe in the equality of humans and strive to create a personal energy that radiates welcoming and acceptance. I would rather that I feel marginally uncomfortable in these situations than the people I’m around, because they live with this uneasiness that I am privileged not to endure. Unfortunately I don’t think that they are spared these feelings, so perhaps my presence does more harm than good at times. Reading these situations is very difficult, especially if it’s when you’re deciding whether or not to go to something. For example, there have been several BLSU meetings that have very interesting, relevant and socially conscious topics. On the one hand, I want to educate myself and show my support, but on the other hand, I don’t want to silence anyone or render their experiences invisible and I don’t want my presence to alter how comfortable individuals are with opening up.
As Kate’s post mentions, being apolitical is a privilege, as is choosing when to or not to be conscious of current events or fight injustices. Sometimes the world seems like it’s speeding to Hell faster than other days and when that happens, I may want to bury my head to the issues. Then I remember that it’s the same institutions of oppression that are giving me this freedom and I realize I don’t have that luxury, in good conscience, anymore. Once your eyes are opened to these issues, it will destroy your soul if you don’t use that privilege to try and alter things. Still, how do I know where and when my presence is helpful and not hindering.