Imagine this! An eighteen-year-old, gay, African American male from the Southside of Chicago leaves his hometown to seek out what he was led to believe a “better education.” The only problem is that this education comes with a price: he has to overcome preconceived notions people have about him based on his marginalized identities. Sounds simple right? All that person has to do is ignore a couple of people who spew out discriminatory language. Wrong! It’s actually much harder than you think. I know because I am that person.
Being a gay, African American male, I constantly get approached with hateful language disguised as “curiosity.” I can describe to you the sheer embarrassment I felt my first year at Bates when a professor made the executive decision to take time out of the class period, and have me explain to the class why Black people wear durags. Or go on about how most recently my white peers still manage to find it acceptable to say the n-word at parties just because it’s “in a song.” I could even get into how Bates students are under the impression that they have full access into my sex life, and ask me degrading questions about gay men engaging in sexual intercourse, like “do you all do stuff besides doggy?”
The worst part is when you’re at a self-proclaimed “left-leaning” liberal arts school because people feel like falling under the “liberal” category on the political spectrum gives them a free pass to be discriminatory. But news splash. Racism exists. Xenophobia exists. Sexism exists. Transphobia exists. Homophobia exists. Classism exists. And they all exist on this very campus.
We, as a campus, constantly ignore the fact that people don’t feel comfortable on this campus because of the accusations people make up based off a person’s race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, etc. That’s the life of a person with a marginalized identity at a predominantly white institution: people make assumptions about you before even meeting you, and then you are silenced if you try to speak out because this is, allegedly, a “progressive school.”
It’s honestly a shame because people with marginalized identities comes to these college campuses to be greeted with open arms because these predominantly white institutions promise equity for all students who attend. But these people with marginalized backgrounds are only met with disappointment. There’s no reason that I, as well as many other people with marginalized identities should only feel safe and hear in certain spaces.
If these predominantly white institutions are actually full of people who want social change, then it should be shown in people’s actions. So, I encourage you all to educate yourself. Before you ask a question, ask yourself what type of implicit biases or discriminatory undertones are in this question. Give your platform to those that have been marginalized. Actually, get involved and become an ally. Be an actual champion of social progression instead of just saying it.