By Brandon Quinere (CE ’19)
The opinions in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the opinion of The Pioneer as a whole.
With the recent protests at American universities such as Yale and Mizzou regarding racial justice and freedom of speech, I find myself astonished by the response of the general public to these events. For the most part, it is generally understood that racism and discrimination are objectively bad things. We live in a society where most children are taught to see their peers as equals, regardless of differences in skin color and so, we applaud them for their “colorblindness.”
Yet, there lies the issue: people choose to erase the experiences that are attached to a particular skin color, for it is that way that they can allow themselves to see everyone equally. But “colorblindness” is not the moral way to fully eradicate discriminatory behavior. It’s time to get uncomfortable; let’s have an honest discussion about race and political correctness.
What those against the actions of student protesters at Yale and Mizzou fail to understand about the situation is that protecting safe spaces is more than just an act of political correctness run amok. There is a great stigma attached to PC culture that suggests colleges are becoming less and less representative of the world beyond campus gates. And so, as a result, college students are reduced to coddled individuals, oblivious to the realities of the outside world.
The public may find it easy to point fingers and laugh at young POC wanting to shield themselves from words and ideas that may make them uncomfortable. At what point, however, does the mere notion of “being uncomfortable” become rooted in something much bigger? The truth is, it doesn’t take much for a casual offensive remark or action to take the form of something largely oppressive.
Take the situation at Yale, for example. If students ask that certain cultures shouldn’t be appropriated in Halloween costumes and an administrator questions the need to do that, the college is essentially allowing prejudicial exploitation on campus. While miniscule on the surface, that minor attack is rooted in years and years of struggle for marginalized groups, especially black individuals. And colleges allow it to happen.
It is not humane to simply brush off racial disturbances, regardless of whether they are small or big in magnitude. It is that sense of apathy in universities toward students of color that allows racial tensions to escalate into extremely unsafe circumstances. Student protesters are speaking out for a good reason: their administrations are not maintaining the safe learning environments they were promised upon entering the school.
It is these same establishments that might have accepted students of color for the sake of creating a more diverse campus, but they are not just faces to have on the covers of brochures. Students of color are individuals with different struggles and experiences that have voices to speak out about them; stop erasing these voices.
This year, the phrase “institutional racism” was used by a candidate in a presidential debate. It is clear that there is no better time than now to acknowledge there is a larger issue at hand here. It will just take a lot of effort for campuses to recognize that political correctness can be a step in the right direction to combat this problem.
A large number of the general public that are against PC culture fear that their right to free speech is not being upheld, and they never forget to cite that our very country was founded on those rights. Why are people so quick to defend their freedom of speech, but not the consequences that come with it? The Constitution does not protect you from social ramifications, so it’s useless to defend derogatory actions just because you have the right to. “It’s just a joke, bro” is a weak argument, anyway.
Why are people so quick to defend their freedom of speech, but not the consequences that come with it?
Just like black lives, the student voice matters. As part of an angry population of students against discrimination of all types, I am not speaking out against a person’s right to say something offensive, but more so on why people feel the need, in 2015, to say such offensive things in the first place.