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
Two baggy shirted, gym short clad men came out onto the library porch this afternoon, after seeing their friend shirtless, tanning right behind where I was sitting. The group poked fun at each other, commenting on the unusualness of seeing a friend shirtless, tanning in the library. I sat half listening, as I was sitting in front of this group with my back to them. Their comments switched to talking about how well each of them tanned, and the shades they would turn.
One man commented, “Man, I really wish I could tan. I’m jealous of my girlfriend. Every time we go to the beach, she gets so tan. People think she’s a fucking Indian or something.”
I snapped around and gave him a dumbfounded look before saying, “Really?”
He looked at me for a second smiling, thinking I was playing into his joke. When he realized I was pissed, he said, “Oh. Sorry man. I should use another word to describe her complexion, such as darker.”
He then turned back to his friends, and repeated the sentence, “I’m jealous of my girlfriend. Every time we go to the beach, she gets so tan. She gets noticeably darker.” He added emphasis on this last word, as if proving to me he could fix his mistake.
He then stopped mid-sentence, turned to me again and said, “Okay. What I meant by the Indian comment was that people have asked my girlfriend if she is Indian before. I understand that I still should have chosen a different word to describe her complexion, and I am sorry.”
Impressed by his empathy, I just sighed and said, “Thank you for recognizing your mistake.” I turned back to my work but then the boys behind me got silent. I felt a knot in my stomach, assuming that they were commenting on what just happened with my back turned to them. Honestly, I got a little scared.
I am so fucking tired of instances like these. You would think with a $200,000 education, this man would have learned how to pick up a fucking thesaurus and look up a better word than “fucking Indian.” I should not have to feel scared sitting in a place that I consider safe because of a mistake someone else made. I should not have to have the rest of my day feel tainted by someone else’s ignorance. I just shouldn’t.
It crossed my mind that I am overreacting. It crossed my mind that this man is not a bad person, he just made one mistake. He even recognized his mistake, and apologized for it. This should be recognized. But how the fuck do I know if this isn’t his norm? When I saw him later in the library laughing with another group of friends, how don’t I know he didn’t make a similar comment? I don’t, that’s the point. But I shouldn’t have to wonder if my security, my comfort is in tact at the risk of assuming the best intention in him.
I am not condemning all baggy shirted, gym pants wearing guys. When instances come up like these, and I see just how easy it is for men like these to joke in such a way, I really can’t help but wonder what other jokes are being made when I am not there to speak up.