Within the last week, I’ve heard a lot of appalling things. It all started when the Concordian published two articles that dealt heavily with issues I consider close to my heart. My personal identity was revealed to campus in an article that dealt with gender-neutral bathrooms, and another article discussed the issues of sexism and racism brought about at Mr. Concordia. I will bring ya’ll up to speed on that later. But, much of the responses I’ve seen to these articles on social media need to be discussed.
One of the biggest forums I’ve seen talking about these articles is the Facebook page Confessions of a Cobber. I will not go into detail as to why I absolutely abhor that page, but just know, the statements posted on that page can be extremely problematic, not to mention just plain creepy at times. One statement addressing me directly was posted on Thursday morning, the day after the gender-neutral bathrooms article was printed. It read: “P.S.A: The guy everyone wants on here isn’t even an actual guy! You fell for a poser and I’m laughing so hard.” This is an issue in and of itself, and I am deeply saddened that someone felt the need to post such a targeting statement.
If you actually read the article, I think the point is extremely clear that I do experience harassment while on this campus and I do feel vulnerable. This time is no different. To clarify, I am not ashamed of who I am when I say that I am a trans* person. I cannot deny who I am and my past experiences as they have molded who I am today. Granted, I also recognize that people may not understand who I am or what I am going through, and that it totally okay. What is not okay is saying things similar to the above statement, especially while hiding behind anonymity. That is childish. More people on this campus need to be more conscious of what they’re saying as there can be lasting effects on certain individuals. We are all human, and we deserve to be treated as such.
This brings me to the responses to the article addressing some of the issues portrayed at this year’s Mr. Concordia. I do not feel everyone understands where the criticisms are coming from, so I wanted to address that. I should also add I was a contestant for Mr. Concordia, and I am speaking on behalf of myself. I want to start by saying that I am making a critique of the actions, not the people who made them. I do not mean ill will toward anyone, but there were actions that crossed the line in my opinion. If you did not attend, let me bring you up to speed. The most recognized actions being the following: A fortune-telling skit that used cultural appropriation, a talent portion that included sexist sentiments and a racist comment that involved the Chocolate Man. This last one is what people have been running with, and I do believe there have been large misinterpretations of where the criticisms came from.
I want it to be clear that the statement was along the lines of “Thank you, Chocolate Man for being the only form of diversity on this campus.” The critique itself is not that the Chocolate Man is brown and looks like chocolate. Yes, I think we can all agree on this (unless you’re color blind to brown, in which case, I’m sorry for the overgeneralization). The critique is that it was said that the statue is the only form of diversity. By making the “joke” that the Chocolate Man is the only form of diversity brings about incredible implications including completely denying the existence of people of color on this campus. That is not okay. I don’t care if it made some people laugh. I don’t care if it was meant as a joke. This is not okay. Yes, our campus is predominantly white, but that does not mean we do not have minorities present on campus.
Given the responses I’ve seen on Facebook, I realize many people on campus do not see that these are issues. However, people’s feelings and responses are completely valid to their own experience. And, if you are unable to see that something is problematic or offensive because it isn’t true to your own experience, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for another person. Along those same lines, just because something is entertaining or funny to you does not mean that it is okay. If you are unable to recognize that, you are holding a large amount of privilege. This is because you have no idea the experiences others have had which cause them to interpret these actions and statements as offensive.
If we live in a society that views these actions as okay, I’m concerned for our campus. We as a community are taught to be engaged in critical thinking. Guess what? We should actually do that. You know BREW and all that fun stuff? (And not just the BREWing you do when putting in hours at the office.) We as a community need to recognize how actions such as those displayed at Mr. Concordia, and many more similar to this, are extremely problematic. We need to attempt to understand where people are coming from and educate ourselves on how to better interact with those around us. We need to open our eyes and our ears to actually recognize these issues. I personally find it disheartening that some are unwilling to do so. We also need to realize dialogue is important to bring awareness forth. We need to have these conversations so that people can recognize these issues so they may be able to change them.
If you take anything away from this, let it be this: Please just be more present and conscious in how your actions or statements may affect another person. And, if someone calls you out on it, try and see it from their view. Also, side note, if you hold the view that people should “just gain thicker skin” or “get over it,” to put it bluntly, you are a bit of a dick. Speaking from personal experience, it does not feel good to have derogatory statements used against you. It does not feel good to receive death threats or targeting statements. Too many of us on this campus come from privileged views where the wool is still covering our eyes. Open your eyes to the experiences of those around you and actually listen. That is how you become responsibly engaged, and you never know what you can learn unless you actually try.
This letter was submitted by Jeff Miller ’14. If you wish to engage in a conversation on this, feel free to contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.