a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
by Veronica Coates
It’s 2AM on a Wednesday night. I have class at 9AM tomorrow, but insomnia sometimes visits me and I find myself randomly searching the internet for momentary amusements. I stroll through my Facebook newsfeed trying to find something funny, something engaging. And I come across The Campus article addressing beyond the green’s first piece as a collective from last week, which was published in The Campus. In that first article, beyond the green gave amazingly honest and raw observations about so-called engagement and dialogue in the current publications present at Middlebury, including The Middlebury Campus and MiddBeat. We stated that the current scene of dialogue does not allow for marginalized and often ignored perspectives to be heard; that dialogue at Middlebury often talks about our politics but doesn’t engage, respect or understand where those politics stem from, nor do they care to; and that ultimately, if we cannot find a space to speak our experiences and opinions without persecution then we can damn well make our own space, defined by our terms.
As I lay in my bed that night reading the campus’ editorial response, frustration, confusion and exasperation started to fill my mind and body as they often do when I read the idiocy spouted in the “progressive” media we have on campus. I was tired of opening The Campus and finding articles about the black boy who cried racist one too many times, or the one that told minorities (by a minority who can easily pass into whiteness) to stop complaining because we were only making it worse. And then The Campus’ disrespectful editorial response this week, which said “We want to provide a safe space for discussion on issues plaguing this campus. As facilitators, we do not suppress any of the opinions we receive. If all is done right, The Campus should be a mirror reflecting what is happening on campus. If you do not like this image, you have no one to blame but yourself.” The frustration, confusion and exasperation I was feeling now, was less a product of my not being aware of marginally progressive entities like The Campus, but that they had the sheer audacity to lie to our community and themselves about their efforts to be inclusive and progressive. “If all is done right” is the operative phrase in this piece. But if the editorial staff is really being reflective they would realize all is not done right. If inclusion and progression is misquoting students, making editorial decisions that advance and sensationalize contributor’s stories, and allowing students to make personal attacks on other students instead of on their ideas then I suggest the entire opinions editorial board go back and try again.
Because, you see, in the light of day I’ve moved completely past frustration, confusion and exasperation and headed straight to angry as hell. Do not pretend like you welcome our contributions wholeheartedly, and that the wider Middlebury student population wants to hear those contributions. I wish it were true that people like me could comfortably engage with The Campus and its many contributors, but the whiteness and privilege that pervades your recycled pages and the ones who chose to fill those pages is not a space made for me (and others in solidarity with me) to engage. The marginal at Middlebury are seen as too angry, too emotional, too connected to our body’s histories. We are forced to shed everything about ourselves so that our opinions become more palatable for a community too afraid to admit its insufferable and intentional ignorance and privilege. And when we do contribute we have to do it in such a way that it doesn’t rile the white morale. I refuse to be anybody’s Aunt Jemima—I am not here to make anyone comfortable and happy; I am not here to uplift the white morale; I am not here for you.
What The Campus editorial staff fails to realize is that progression and inclusion does not mean asking us marginal folks to write for The Campus. It does not mean that you gather us to make the change that it is your responsibility to create. Because at the end of the day, we have to protect ourselves from the racism, classicism, elitism, and all the other ‘isms out there that we are perpetually experiencing on Middlebury’s physical campus, but also in your recycled pages. Do not fault beyond the green for offering the progressive, inclusive space that you still need to work on crafting in your own publication. You must not be doing the best job possible of making your space inclusive, progressive and transformative if people, like me, felt like we needed our own loud speaker in beyond the green.
Us marginal people have always found a way to make it in this world, and on this campus. When the white man wouldn’t free us, we found our own paths to freedom; when the white universities didn’t want us, we made our own HBCUs; when the white suffragists and later feminists didn’t want us, we made our own spaces; when the majorly white, wealthy and male LGBTQ community wouldn’t hear our concerns just as equally, we made our own communities. We made and are continuing to make incredible theories, art, and movements happen when no one but ourselves believed in us.
Last night, one half of the duo that is Sister Outsider, in a poem called “Karma,” said, “I found my mother tongue buried under the rubble of the world trade center.” It is in the dismantling of systems and entities of power that we come into ourselves, our voices. The Campus can’t give me anything but another space in their recycled pages to talk to closed ears and minds shut off to anything that cannot benefit you and yours. I’m done. I’m too angry to deal with the perpetual bullshit I hear every single week published in The Campus.
I will admit The Campus has reached out to me to contribute. But just like then, as I still believe now, I was to fulfill a particular niche of Blackness, of minstrelsy that I have every right to refuse if I so choose. I do not want to write in The Campus. And it has nothing to do with the editorial staff individually, but they have to realize that the space they strive to create in their article does not translate to us marginalized individuals who found love, solidarity, and a willingness to see and hear one another in beyond the green. It is not simply inviting us to the conversation, but also having our backs when shit gets real in the comments section, as they so often do AND holding their regular contributors accountable for their techniques to further marginalize us who do try to speak by telling us that we are afraid to engage in intellectually and academically stimulating debate. I am not afraid of anyone, but God and my Mama. The Campus as a publication, and particularly a couple of their contributors, have got me fucked up if they think, for one second, my life and the lives of anyone else is just a simple “academic” interest . We live in this shit every day. We live in our bodies every day. Sorry, not sorry that I refuse to play your game, that I refuse to be the “progression” you wish to see in The Campus, while not requiring the same of regular contributors.
I will end by saying my participation in the creation of beyond the green was due largely to not finding a space for me and all my emotions and complexities and craziness in the campus. I am not saying a space has never existed in The Campus for marginal identities, but I am critiquing that space because it has its limits—limits I refuse to subject myself to when, like I said before, marginalized people have always made our own when we were not allowed, in the way we want, to show ourselves. And lastly, The Campus article ended by saying, “At the end of the day, we are one of the most widely read and distributed publications on campus and are able to touch a diverse group of people, from students and alumni to faculty and staff. We want your opinions, but we are not mind readers. We cannot reflect what you want to see unless you participate.” In response, I’d like to end with my favorite quote from Sister Outsider’s poem “Karma,” “Tell ‘em I have never been invisible, tell ‘em he has never been invincible. Tell massa I’m coming back.”