I swear President Obama knows me a little too well for not knowing me at all—I’ve spent the last week fuming over the current state of P(o)C culture, and to my surprise, I came across this article which mirrored my own sentiments.
I spoke with a classmate a couple weeks ago, which fueled much of my discontent. In retelling their semester to me, they shared “I’ve been trying to surround myself with people who either get it [it being the problems their community is facing], or have never said stuff about the topic that I disagreed with.”
There are many problems with that statement that it’s hard for me to know where to begin—first off, why do people feel that addressing oppression with intolerance is the answer? Cutting yourself off from anyone with even a slightly different view places you in an ideal bubble, which provides a false sense of security. Refusing to listen to other opinions and accept difference is the problem that brews intolerance in the first place, and is one of the reasons students of color feel so oppressed. As such, college students should not be coddled from hearing opposing views. College is a time to learn about all perspectives, to make educated opinions using these views, and to try and understand differences within this views.
Hypersensitivity is not the answer. I go to school in Southern California, perhaps the most liberal bubble in the country. My school, Harvey Mudd College, is one of few colleges with an Office of Institutional Diversity, let alone with such diversity in its admission. In the past few months, students of color have become radically hypersensitive to topics, to the point where it’s unhealthy for them and everyone else. A student recently wrote about the “toxicity” of the Claremont bubble and how they couldn’t wait to return home where they could escape this oppression…. I was left perplexed. Mudd isn’t perfect, I’m well aware and there’s much growth to be made, but we are trying, and we are trying hard. This effort certainly does not warrant the hopeless and “toxic” perceptions students try to associate it with.
The culture at the Claremont Colleges is becoming increasing unhealthy—students of color share their experiences, but no one is allowed to counter their arguments. Many of my peers are afraid to speak up and to share their own views—that this extreme sensitivity is detrimental to our culture. I can’t even share my own opinions, because I’ll be called a privileged minority. I’ll be told I don’t understand the “real” struggle of minorities (which in fact, someone has said to me).
No one should be told their struggles aren’t real, nor should they be shamed for having their own views. Every minority certainly has different experiences—whether with racial profiling, raw violence, or microaggressions—however, it is not any of our place to claim one struggle is greater than another. Our individual experiences make us who we are, and as minorities, that’s what we’re supposed to band together for—what we’re supposed to fight against. Nobody should be told that their experiences as a person of color are not important, and they definitely should not be told that they are less in comparison to someone else.
Let’s quickly consider the larger scale consequences of this outlook. Last year, Madeleine Albright was invited to speak at Scripps College’ commencement—perturbed by this decision, several faculty members and students boycotted and refused to show up at her speech, for Scripps had chosen a white feminist for another year in a row. She wasn’t chosen because she was white, or because she was feminist. She was chosen because she broke an incredibly gendered barrier, becoming the first female secretary of state. That’s huge, and that’s why she deserves to be celebrated. However, for her and for other white leaders who are champions of minorities, allyship is not welcomed. It seems that many poeple of color want others to be allies, but then they claim that because these allies do not understand their struggle, they have no place speaking for them. These women– these allies– are not trying to speak for them, they’re just trying to help and improve conditions for people of color. However, POC will tend to alienate all their allies through this process, and then say no one cares about them. How is that productive? This could be seen within Hillary’s campaign for the presidency as well- Hillary spent her entire life fighting for women and POC rights, but because she doesn’t first-handedly understand their struggles, they claimed that she hadn’t done enough, and that she didn’t deserve their sympathy or empathy. This problem is slowly tearing the Democratic party apart by alienating a large portion of its constituency, and this needs to be addressed if we want to see any change in the coming years.