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
Being at a predominantly white school like Middlebury has made me trusting. It has made me believe that because the community of color here is so small, we would all be in agreement of the marginalization that goes on at this institution. That it would be easy to talk about broader, world issues with every person of color (POC). Unfortunately, every semester here I encounter another POC who is white-washed. And I don’t only mean someone who has given up their culture for one that is white American, but white-washed in the sense that they are either completely oblivious to the oppression they and others have experienced, or a POC who can clearly see the issues but doesn’t attribute them to racism, sexism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. AKA, the post-racial POC.
In the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner murders and the subsequent non-indictment of the police officers who murdered them, it seems to me that many more of these post-racial people of color have revealed themselves. And quite honestly, I recognize that we cannot all be on the same page. Some people of color have spent more time in white supremacist spaces than others and are now conditioned to tolerate micro-aggressions that, to other less conditioned people of color, seem very obvious. But what is most upsetting and frankly, annoying about their obliviousness is that we already get enough shit from white students, professors, and the administration. We don’t need shit from our own communities too. There have been too many times when I, or a friend of mine, encounter a post-racial POC at Middlebury who say equally problematic things as some of Middlebury’s white students. And every time this happens, I ask myself, “What in the world has made you think that way? How can you come from where we come from and think of your own people so badly? How could you ever think that badly about yourself?” I find myself feeling empathy for them but simultaneously being angered by their beliefs. Because just like uninformed white people, there are no excuses at this point in our Middlebury College careers for ignorance and marginalizing remarks when such an effort has been made to involve and educate the community.
To People of Color:
Do not tell me that my offense at Ron’s insufferable email is unwarranted. If he can muster up an approximately 700-word email to address the ban of alcohol at tailgating sites, he can write an equally lengthy email about race relations in America and at Middlebury. His attempt at showing tolerance or acceptance of our demonstrations is antagonizing. Do not insult my intelligence by saying, “The school admin supports the protests/demonstrations. Better than getting tear-gassed or shot, which is how other authorities seem to be handling things in this damn country. Seems like we’re all just nitpicking an email for no good reason.” There is no way in hell that I am going to sit here and be complacent with Ron’s micro-aggressive words that are just as equally problematic because he and/or the administration are not being physically violent with people of color. Are you kidding me? I suppose what I should be doing instead is commending Ron for writing an entire email about race without actually using the word “race” or “racists.” Good job Ron!
When I express to you the ways in which I have experienced marginalization by our mutual white friends, do not defend them without hearing my explanation too.
Do not come into our safe spaces to tell us how white people have been so good to you. I am not interested in hearing more White Savior, White Man’s Burden stories.
Please, do not sit here and tell me that Ferguson is not a race issue. Saying that as a POC permits white people to believe and say the same. A very common and problematic issue white people have is to think that one person of color speaks for all people of color. Even though this is completely untrue, it remains true in the eyes of American society and we must be cautious of what we say at such a pivotal moment in time.
Do not have the fucking audacity to say violent protesters are “putting us to shame.” Fear of violence in these movements is a clear indication of how people of color are expected to control their fear for their lives because that fear is not justified. Expecting people of color and especially blacks to make peaceful protests and demonstrations without disturbing the white population is, in my experience, a direct example of privilege and the misunderstanding that comes with it. And as an article in The Root said, “Business as usual is the refusal to acknowledge that the primary function of peaceful protests is to allow some white people to feel safe in the face of black rage.” Because of course it isn’t enough that white institutions hate us and oppress us. White supremacy ensures that we hate ourselves too and internalize the racism directed at us through all facets of society. Maybe what non-allied people of color don’t understand is that we are all conditioned to please white people. That all the activism, discussions, and reforms we strive to make in our institution are made under the guise of changing just enough to keep white people comfortable; not because that is what we strive for, but because that is what is allowed. Instead of critiquing these emotions manifested through violence, ask yourself how you can be an ally to your black friends who are hurting and afraid.
Saying things like “police brutality has nothing to do with race, it’s our generation’s faults for walking around with sagging pants, drug dealing, speaking improper English, being a thug. The problem is us, we have to become the system to change the system!” Well, actually no. This is another facet of internalized racism. But it gets more complicated than that, because at this point one is just not understanding that there are past and modern patterns of racism that affect the perpetuation of this reality for many people of color. I would encourage you to look up the school to prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, and housing discrimination (which in turn affects district funding for public schools) to begin with. Educate yourself about these matters, so that you can use your own knowledge to break the shackles institutions bind us with. The system in its white, male, heteronormative, ableist, supremacist way works partly because we keep blaming and hating ourselves. Do not let them disable you in this fight by keeping yourself ignorant.
Many, if not all, of these examples I have heard from white people at Middlebury as well. But there is something surprisingly hurtful and shocking about hearing and reading it from a person of color. At a time when what is needed most is solidarity, more and more ignorant, bigoted beliefs are coming to light. Being a person of marginalized identity is exhausting. But more than that, being a marginalized person who refuses to stay silent and combat oppression in individual and collective ways is arguably more so. This work, which often impacts our ability to be the all-achieving, involved, and informed Middlebury students expected of us is tiring, frustrating, and made all the more difficult by the process of having to figure out who is or isn’t an ally in the already small people of color community. In order to create this community of solidarity, there needs to be a combined effort of individuals to keep educating ourselves. There is a difference between the education we are receiving from Middlebury and the education we obtain from simply being these identities in American society. Even if you consider yourself a well informed person of color, strive to continually diversify your learning outlets by exposing yourself to realities that make you uncomfortable. Learning to dismantle systems of inequality around us and inside of us is a process like no other. But choosing to use other privileged people and institutions as your only source of information is reprehensible, and leads to the perpetuation of white supremacy.
For this reason, I have some readings and blogs below that have shaped my understanding of oppression and challenged how these histories were taught to me through the American system of education. I am definitely missing a great deal, but my own education continues:
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison