The revolutionary senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, has launched his bid for the presidency, vowing to transform our country. As a former presidential hopeful, Bernie is seasoned in the game, possesses an extensive support network, and is shaking up our concept of the “mainstream” as we know it. Bernie’s platform is one of democratic socialism and emphasizes a grassroots movement. At its core, Sanders’ platform represents an unprecedented shift to restore and revitalize the foundation of this country, which is grounded in the will of the people and expanding the circle of liberty. Unlike 2016, Sanders has household name recognition as well as an extensive donor and volunteer list. He has amassed a network of millions of contributors and raised money in a record-breaking amount of time, which speaks to his magnetic message that appeals to large swaths of the population. Furthermore, his policy ideas occupy a unique space in the current political landscape that gives him tremendous bragging points. The Sanders campaign proposes policies such as Medicare for All, tuition-free college, and environmental justice, manifesting itself in the Green New Deal. As a Prometheus-like candidate, he takes power from the status quo and gives it to the people of the country. On some level, it seems somewhat disappointing that the wealthiest nation on the planet has embarked on these essential policies for its people. It is a disgrace that Americans have to pay several times more than what their counterparts in other developed nations pay for prescription drugs. Alongside basic affordable healthcare is the question of how we educate our young people, who are integral if we want to shape a sustainable future. And that sustainable future can only be a reality if we have a concrete plan to deal with climate change. How are people going to actively go against their interest and vote against policies that benefit them and their children? Sanders has the answers. His populist messages are set to do very well with primary voters once the campaign trail heats up. However, unlike 2016 when Bernie was the only diamond in the rough, he is now flanked on all sides by other presidential hopefuls who have adopted many of his ideas. Like clockwork, this has prompted mass coverage from the mainstream media who try and downplay his significance and, of course, prop up their favorites who align more with their establishment wishes. This was seen clearly when Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar entered the race for president. Their presence was viewed as electrifying and was met with jubilant reviews and personal endorsements posing as political analysis on major network television stations. A blatant example of this bias was after Bernie raised 6 million dollars in 24 hours, which was met with lukewarm descriptions and even wholeheartedly rejected by columnists at the Washington Post, questioning whether or not this indicated any clout for the Sanders campaign. In a double standard, Kamala Harris’ sizeable haul of 1 million dollars was seen as confirmation of her unmatched fortitude as a Democratic candidate. There is nothing wrong with opinionated pieces to create a healthy discourse of ideas, but when that creeps into actual journalism, it threatens the objectivity of the Fourth Branch of Government. Attacks on Bernie are not new by any stretch of the imagination. As we speak, Fox News is undoubtedly creating new graphics to smear him as a “radical” and a “communist.” Any time there is opposition, the opponent has to shift its thinking. They now have to take you seriously. The establishment reads the polls, just like supporters of Bernie do, and they understand the growing support for his policies, and that rocks them to their core. Their ability to control and shape the country in their image, whether it be lower taxes for the rich or more wars for the military industrial complex, is coming to a swift end. The 2020 Presidential Campaign season proposes to be a true referendum on the values and direction of the United States. Bernie Sanders has thrown his hat into the ring, created a disturbance and has woken up dormant voters. The revolution has begun, the time is at hand, the dawn is upon us.
Category: Forum Page 1 of 6
It is that time of the year again. As March brings unwarranted hopes for a warm respite from Maine’s record-setting winter temperatures, the Registrar’s Office reminds us to sign up for fall classes. I always enjoy crafting my course schedule. But there is more to the process than casually lingering by our advisor’s office, scrolling through Garnet Gateway, and demonstrating our commitment to a perfect GPA by crashing Rate My Professor. Course registration is the ultimate exercise of our role as students: an opportunity to mull over our career goals and pursue our intellectual passions. I must confess every sign-up season leaves me yearning for more. Even as Bates consistently provides a rich menu of academic offerings, there is always that one class I wish I could take… that one issue area I have always dreamed of exploring further… that one subject that would allow me to draw from multiple disciplines. So I’ve taken it upon myself to create a list of courses I think our professors should consider teaching: ASTR 139: Exoplanets and the Future of Humanity. Following the launch of NASA’s Kepler telescope in 2009, scientists have identified over 50 exoplanets within the goldilocks zone: that is, neither too close nor too far from their star to sustain liquid water and atmosphere. According to an MIT professor Sara Seager, “We will [soon] be able to take children to a dark sky, point to a star, and say ‘that star has a planet with signs of life.’” Some researchers find an even greater reason of optimism in our neighboring Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, claiming that a revolutionary announcement about life beyond earth is just a few decades away. Conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial beings, even at the molecular level, portends for social consequences of astronomical proportions. While ASTR 139 would predominantly be a science class – deconstructing the wobble detection method, calculation of celestial distances in light years, and planet-hunters’ interest in red dwarves – it would also turn to psychology, religious studies, and philosophy to ponder a variety of questions. How does the discovery of other habitable worlds shift our perception of earth as the center of the universe? Will finding life beyond our native planet amount to the ultimate theological conundrum?
ENG 211: The World of Accents. Per the old saying, “the only way not to have an accent is not to speak.” As a geographically diverse institution, Bates is teeming with both regional and global sounds. Students would dive into classical linguistics to explain how accents form, why most adults are good at hearing foreign accents but bad at losing their native ones, and how en masse presence of television sets in the nation’s households led to the evolution of a standard American accent in the 1940s. The second half of the course would commit to examining how accents affect our perceptions of national origin, race, socio-economic class, and intelligence.
PLTC 305: CapSTONE Seminar on the Politics of Marijuana Legalization. The tide of marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation, bringing joy to herb enthusiasts and case studies in American federalism to scholars of politics. The course would evaluate how state legislatures, ballot initiatives, and federal regulations interact on different cannabis-related issues. Special attention would be given to America’s judicial and penal systems, because even as weed knows only one color, the laws surrounding its consumption disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic communities. In light of the recent nationwide legalization of marijuana in Canada, as well as long-standing commercial practices of several Western European countries, there might even be a lecture or two in comparative government. Instead of a traditional discussion format characteristic to Bates seminars, students would play the roles of interest groups, politicians, and researchers to explore the world of policy-making. And should no Bates classroom be large enough to handle record-high (pun intended) enrollment in the course, Mount David is always an option.
Yes, it’s March, and to many, this may seem outdated, but I want to discuss the importance of Black History Month and the continuation of racism. I have been thinking a lot about how racism is still influential in today’s society despite the valiant efforts of the historical Civil Rights and the Black Lives Matter movements. As a black person, particularly at Bates, I feel in many ways isolated and alone. Black History Month is a critical period for people all around the world because it symbolizes the many cultural and emotional implications of race. Black History Month, to me, is the ability to celebrate and pay tribute to the evolution of black people in society. As a child, I always enjoyed watching documentaries such as Eyes On The Prize while learning more about the significance of black people in the United States and in the world. But unfortunately, those times have passed. I have been a victim of racism ever since I was six years old and every day I walk with that pain. Nowadays, I fear for people of color, especially black people, everywhere as we continue to be the targets of hatred. In many ways, race is still being used to dehumanize people of color and uphhold white supremacy. I am saddened not just by how racism is still prevalent in today’s society but how people seem to ignore the signs of one’s pain. I am saddened that even at a school such as Bates, I have been the target of racism and, as a result, have been reluctant to share my story and to speak my truth. Similarly to other kinds of social inequality, people who are victims of racism are ignored by the corrupt institutions of the criminal justice system and the federal government. Even in schools and universities, people of color are often seen as annoyances and burdens to faculty, administration, and other authorities. I wish my experience at Bates was different. I wish I felt secure enough to walk into Commons and not have people look at me with judgment as I walk to my seat. I wish I felt confident enough that every time I spoke up in class, I wouldn’t have to feel worried that people doubted my abilities. I wish I felt safe enough that, every time I walked to my dorm, people wouldn’t question why I am at a school like Bates. And I fear that I don’t have enough support to deal with these emotions. The issue of race is not clear cut, it is multifaceted. People of color come from various different backgrounds and ethnicities. We talk many dialects, and we speak many languages. We have faith in many religions, and we believe in many messages. We are many people, but we are one people. We are not objects. We are not meant to be victims of hatred and discrimination. We are not meant to be part of an elaborate plot to obscure the truth and to misinform people. We are meant to be human beings. We are meant to live our lives to the fullest. We are meant to love. Regardless of what we do, the pain is still here. My experience is painful, to say the least, because the majority of times that I have experienced racism was in a school setting. Despite my best wishes and my misguided optimism, I have experienced racism at Bates. To my surprise, in my time of isolation and vulnerability, people who I didn’t think would support me, did. Those people helped me realize that I am not the only one at Bates who has faced racial injustice. But it hurts to say that people view me as an enemy and as a threat to their lives. I hope that in time Bates as a community does better to address issues such as racism and social issues on campus. I know that if we do our part and work together towards a better future, maybe people like me won’t feel so targeted as much. However, despite this little optimism, I cannot excuse the terrible feeling it is to be a victim of racism. Black History Month is a great way to celebrate black culture and history, but it is not enough to combat the power of racism and discrimination. We must all unite to stand for what is right and to strive for equality.
If you know at least ten people with a uterus, odds are you also know someone with endometriosis. Endometriosis is perhaps the most common disease you’ve never heard of. Affecting at least ten percent of the female-bodied population, endometriosis is defined as the growth of tissue similar to that of the lining of the uterus on other organs, most commonly the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and intestines. These lesions bleed every month during the menstrual period, and because the blood has nowhere to go, it accumulates inside the body, causing internal bleeding and immense amounts of pain. March is national endometriosis awareness month, but you probably didn’t know that. For a disease that’s so common that it’s almost impossible for you not to know someone affected, endometriosis gets virtually no attention in the media and popular culture. Why is it that America turns pink in October for breast cancer awareness and red in February for heart disease, but not yellow in March for endometriosis? Endometriosis receives so little attention because we are not ready to talk about periods. In American culture, menstruation is shameful, dirty, and disgusting. When I first started my period, I was told to keep it to myself, like I had a secret every month that no one could know about. So, when I began to experience cramps so terrible I was paralyzed with pain, I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I had to keep my secret. I would walk into the school nurse’s office doubled over but told her it was just a headache and it would feel better after lying down. I thought it was normal to lose sleep from period pain, and that all my friends had cramps so terrible they threw up, too. Everyone took days off from school, dance class, or canceled weekend plans even after maxing out on Advil and Tylenol, right? Nobody talked about their period, so how was I supposed to know that most people actually can get out of bed when they have theirs? I accepted my pain as part of being a woman and just something I had to grin and bear. My experience is not uncommon, and too many people suffer in silence. Women are far too often told they are exaggerating their symptoms, or have a low pain tolerance. Because endometriosis affects multiple body organs, women are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or pelvic floor dysfunction and sent away without a second thought. The average wait time between when a woman first seeks medical attention to when she is diagnosed with endometriosis is ten years. Not only do women live with unnecessary pain for extended periods of time, but when left undiagnosed and untreated, endometriosis can lead to irreversible organ damage and infertility. The only way to definitively diagnose and treat endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery, which many women with endometriosis undergo multiple times throughout their lives to preserve fertility and stave off the pain. It is time to get over our fear of periods and give endometriosis and women’s health the attention it deserves, not only from the general public but within the medical community as well. There should be more effective treatments, more options for pain management, less invasive and more efficient means of diagnosis. Menstruation is a natural biological process, and it is not “normal” to be sidelined by period pain every month. Going forward, we must learn not to devalue women for their pain, so that one-day women’s health will not be taboo and fewer women will be led to believe that their suffering is normal.
An article from the BBC states that “Skeletons seem to be making a mass exodus from public figures closets of late.” These skeletons must be pushed into the light and faced with the wrath of the public for what they are: a racist exercises of power and white supremacy. As blackface begins to dominate the news and leader after leader is subjugated to the torrent of the public and the media, the apologies have to be called into question. What kind of apology should be accepted by society? Are politicians apologizing for the simple sake of reelection and protecting their public image? How do we hold accountable such fundamental flaws of character, especially when they are direct assaults on people’s race? Throughout U.S. history, media has perpetuated the humor of blackface. Thomas D. Rice was a white New York actor who first developed the concept of blackface as a way to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of African Americans and use them for entertainment. Now known as the “Father of Minstrelsy,” Rice sparked the widespread usage of blackface in theatrics across the country. During a time where many emancipated slaves were advocating for civil rights, whites in the country felt threatened and rallied around racist norms and laws to assert their power over the country. Theatre had a part in this mission, and minstrel shows put cultural ideas of black inferiority into song and dance numbers. Blackface began to fizzle away with the surge of the Civil Right Movement, however one can see that it has not died. The negative vernacular and stereotypes of African Americans has persisted into today. In a time of unkept promises, fluctuating policies, and unpredictability flowing from the White House, many people are hoping for stability in their political offices. Politicians themselves are hoping that with every speech or apology made, it will quell the public dissent and their reign in office will continue. The complexities of the situation escalates when you seperate those politicians whose past wrongful actions were discovered, and those who admitted it in a sign of honesty. In Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology, a book by Edwin Battistella, the concept of devaluing an apology due to an underlying desire for political gain is discussed. The author argues that many politicians will use conditional language with the audience in a hope to generalize the issue and have it pass with time. Public figures nowadays are less willing to take responsibility for their actions and would rather dodge around the details. Politicians use one of two apology methods in times where their character is questioned by a past event according to Battistella: “the apology tour, a series of speeches and interviews pursued as an expedient opportunity to express regret, versus the non-apology, such as when Oregon Senator Bob Parkwood apologised in 1992 for ‘the conduct that it was alleged that I did.’” In the case of blackface, when a politician has a history of directly participating in the act that is still today a sign of the dehumanization of African Americans and an exercise of white supremacy, an apology cannot be enough. By understanding the roots of a political apology and the self-preservation undertone of the speeches that have made recent headlines, one must never forget the actions to which were committed and the culture they represent.
As a politics and psychology double major, I at times receive scrutiny from STEM majors about how I’m “wasting my money” and how I’m unemployable because, apparently, the only thing people in the arts and humanities do is “sit around a classroom and theorize about books.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, but trying to explain the importance of the arts and humanities to a STEM major is often fruitless. Unless your degree qualifies you to work as an engineer or accountant, or allows you to work in a hospital, your degree is virtually useless in their eyes. But why? Why do STEM majors believe that they are superior based solely off of what they are studying in college? Before we can answer that question, we have to conceptualize what it means to be conceited in the first place. We need to shed light on why people, in general, get fixated on this idea that they must constantly prove that they are better than others. Well, it should be no surprise that our capitalistic society- a society that prides itself on the “only the strongest shall survive” mentality- values arrogance. To most people, this attribute is equated with dominance, power, affluence, and prestige. People want complete dominion so they can do whatever they please. People also want money so they won’t be constricted by finances, therefore granting them the opportunity to explore the world and all it has to offer- not even mention how people want to have influence over others so that their legacy can be remembered and make their lives purposeful. So, let’s face it: anyone would act in a pretentious manner if they knew that in the end, they would amass fame and fortune. STEM majors constantly challenge themselves and brag to liberal arts majors about how hard they’re pushing themselves. STEM majors are going to school to be doctors, engineers, and physicists- people who are making a lasting impact on society. So, isn’t it a good thing to be arrogant? Or is that what society wants us to believe? Is there a way to be successful without belittling others for the field of study they chose? Of course there is! Arts and humanities do more than just theorize about life. They have to go into every discussion and provide representation for those who are disfranchised. This is not to say that STEM doesn’t consider marginalized individuals, but it is undeniable that people of color and women don’t have the same representation as cis-gendered heterosexual white men in STEM fields. Arts and humanities give a platform to people to express their individuality and allow people to think outside of the box, unlike STEM majors who use formulas to get a solution. Both types of students, those in liberal arts and those in STEM, have difficulties within their respective fields. Furthermore, saying one is better than the other would simply be illogical. Everyone can shine and be successful in their own areas of study because everyone is doing something different than the next person. We, as a society, need to dismantle this idea of tearing down others in order to get success. Instead, we need to teach people to help each other and recognize the potential in every field of study, because every field is very much needed. No matter what field of study you go into, you can make a lasting impact on society.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
Disclaimer: The ambiguity of this article is designed to keep the identities of those mentioned protected. However, because the article clearly indicates that my perpetrator was someone I’ve dated, I want to make undeniably explicit that this person does not and has not ever attended this college.
It took me three and a half years to admit to myself that I was raped. Neither my experience of rape nor my rapist matched my preconceived notions of what rape looked like: he was no stranger, there was no alley, there were no drugs involved. In fact, he was someone who I was deeply in love with at the time of the event. I pardoned, sugar-coated, and remembered everything he did gazing through rose-colored glasses. It was easier to remember him and his actions as choices I was making than to admit to myself the disconcerting powerlessness he inflicted upon me.
How could I conceive of myself as a strong and independent woman, a good feminist, if I let myself stay in a situation that was textbook abusive for two and a half years? How could I claim such abhorrent labels, such as abuse and rape, if he loved me? What about all the other victims of assault who experience bodily injury and debilitating mental trauma? I wasn’t them. I signed up for my situation. As I saw it, I really was asking for it.
It was around the time of the Kavanaugh hearings that I remember the heaviness of exhaustion sinking in; it became harder to do school work, harder to sleep. I felt unrecognizable and visceral bouts of anger creep into my bloodstream when discussing sexual assault. I listened to the detail with which Dr. Ford recounted her story. Her memories were so vivid, clear, and credible, and yet hundreds of thousands of people wrote her off.
I would lie awake at night wracking my brain for details, too. I couldn’t remember the month that it happened to me. I couldn’t even tell you how old I was, let alone describe the narrow staircase of the high-school house party as Dr. Ford did. All I recall were the boots I was wearing, the direction I was facing on my couch, and that it took nine minutes from start to finish.
A few weeks after the Kavanaugh hearings, a close friend divulged her experience of assault to me. I was utterly chilled when she told me that she, too, could hardly remember the time-frame of when she was assaulted. The more I listened to people, the more I noticed the desperation with which survivors tried to recall details of their experience, and their consequent inability to do so.
It was only then that I understood the body’s physical response to trauma. Sometimes we can’t remember the place, the night, the person’s face, the things they said, or how many drinks we might’ve had. But the art on his walls, the peanut butter on his breath, the temperature of the hot tub, the hand on the back of her head, or the nine minutes it took for him to satisfy himself are the details that are seared into our psyches. What did I say to him? Did I kiss him back? Did I orgasm?
These lingering questions prevented me from accepting the significance of my experience for years. Even today, I struggle with using the word rape, unsure if that is a label I get to claim. For years, I listened to other stories and compared them to my own. I grew up with robust sexual education and a supportive network that believed survivors unquestioningly, yet I simply couldn’t situate myself within the crux of the problem. I couldn’t say #metoo, out of a fear that maybe I was wrong.
I downplayed my experience. I chalked it up to melodrama. Maybe I’d misremembered. It wasn’t until I became cognizant of the fact that so many other survivors struggled with the same self-doubt that I realized the immense capability that systemic power-based violence has to silence. It wasn’t until I noticed the common thread of all the stories I heard was the terrifying sense of bodily dissociation. The moment we left our bodies and became receptacles. The moment we left our bodies and became observers and involuntary participants. The moment we left our bodies and simultaneously watched and experienced what was being done to us.
I might not remember everything, but I will never forget the feeling of leaving myself, closing my eyes, letting my limbs go limp, and counting down the seconds until the pounding would stop. We might not remember everything, but survivors will never forget the moment we left our bodies to survive the dislocation and unparalleled fear.
This year, I tried to explain to him my realization. I thought that talking through some of what happened might bring me some peace. I thought that two and a half years of reflection might bring an apology, or, at the very least, an admission. Instead, I received, “Okay Maddy, go ahead and #metoo me if you want,” in return.
It is that utter lack of accountability that drove me to write today. The immense feeling of hopelessness that I have been enduring, working through in therapy, and falling asleep to has begun to take its toll.
I was on a run in Lewiston the other day when a man catcalled me. For him, the outburst was a fleeting moment. However, I spent the rest of my run looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was behind me. He did not understand that his moment of sexual lasciviousness triggered a chilling fear for my own safety.
My freshman year at Bates, one boy tried to get me alone in his room; another cornered me in an elevator; a third convinced me to leave a party, and upon realizing I wasn’t going to sleep with him, left me drunk and alone in the street. This year, I found out that all three of the men described are known predators on this campus, some even having assaulted some of my closest friends.
I do not conceive of myself as the poster child for sexual assault. Others have experienced different, life-changing trauma. I am simply exhausted by the fact that each time I go into Commons, I see multiple men who freely walk around this campus having faced no consequences, social or official, for their actions. I am exhausted by the fact that the Title IX office has closed the cases on some of the most egregious forms of sexual assault I have ever heard happen in my life— instances that would shock the world in the same manner as Brock Turner’s did if they saw the light of day.
I am exhausted that I am unable to publicly name many of these on-campus assailants without facing legal repercussions. I am exhausted because facets of our community know these perpetrators and willingly choose to continue associating with them. I am exhausted by the juxtaposition between support groups held by Bates in the wake of the 2016 election and the class time dedicated to speaking about these issues after the Kavanaugh hearings against Bates’ continuation to let those with money, power, and status roam this campus with no repercussions. All this hypocrisy condones and encourages the message that those with plentiful enough resources are free to “grab [us] by the pussy” here.
The experience of rape culture I am attempting to address does not solely encompass rape and its survivors; it is about each and every coercive sexual experience, every instance of workplace harassment, every inappropriate passing comment. It is for every person who has had to wrestle with their own self-doubt, draw on the power of hindsight, and fight to legitimize their discomfort. This letter is meant to address a culture that conditions some people to believe that other bodies are worth less than their own. By writing this, I hope that if even one or two people understand the persistence of my fear, they might begin to hold those responsible accountable. It need not get to the point of physical assault for someone to care, let alone take action. It need not take knowing a survivor personally or thinking of the women in our lives for someone to care. This is an issue of moral urgency and human dignity.
There are wonderful people on this campus, of all genders, actively combatting the system of power-based violence in a variety of ways. We see you and we hear you. In writing this, I simply want our administration to be aware of the consequences of their complacency. And even more so, I want us all, myself included, to remember that this horror starts and ends with the student body. It starts and ends with us calling out one another for the ways in which we degrade each other’s bodies, in turn lessening their value to justify our own desires. It starts and ends with a joke in Commons. It starts and ends with our conduct at dances. It starts and ends with who we let in the doors to parties. It starts and ends with accountability.
This need not create a culture of fear. Sexual assault is far from simple, far from black and white. But at the end of the day, those who aren’t participating in or contributing to this culture of violence have nothing to be afraid of. I recognize the nuance and delicacy of sexual assault cases. However, it is not a difficult or trying task to simply respect other people’s bodies. Sexual assault is an issue of unbridled entitlement, and we sacrifice nothing in trying to do better. And we must do better.
From the Kavanaugh scandal to the growing appreciation movement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to the court’s most recent ruling in favor of the transgender military ban, there is never a dull moment in the nation’s highest court. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Supreme Court agreed with a 5-4 majority to enforce the ban against transgender people in the military while the order returns to the 9th Circuit courts for further speculation.
The ban dubbed the “Mattis Plan” after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, includes a series of detailed restrictions that dictate who can serve in the US military on the basis of their gender identity, claiming gender identity affects one’s ability to serve effectively and productively. The Pentagon released a statement claiming they will continue to operate under the Defense Department’s 2016 policy enacted by the Obama administration, which allows for active military participation regardless of gender and sexuality. The implementation of the Mattis Plan, however, serves as a major blow to US inclusion policies and activists who have been working toward making the United States a more accepting nation.
It is mind-boggling that government officials, or anyone for that matter, can make an unsupported judgment on someone’s ability to serve their country based on how they identify and express their gender. It is essentially the same as ostracizing left-handed people and claiming they are “possessed by the devil,” solely based on a part of their identity they have no control over. This idea used to be deemed acceptable and is now viewed as archaic and vulgar. The general population has come to realize that dexterity is simply the result of our neurobiology.
And despite common misconception – and, at times misinformation – gender identity is not a choice and is as much ingrained in who we are from the day we were born as the hand with which we write. Just as some great soldiers have been left-handed, plenty of transgender people have served in the United States military with valor and efficiency, proving to be vital members of war and defense effort.
It brings me deep sadness that institutionalized hatred is still commonplace in the United States, and that I no longer find myself surprised to learn about the passage of yet another exclusionary policy. I know change and progress take time, but events of the past few years leave me pessimistic for the future. For the entirety of Trump’s administration, the president has dedicated his time to undoing Obama’s policies of inclusion, and has essentially made a game out of doing everything possible to upset the “liberal democrats” he speaks about with such distaste. Trump’s presidency represents an era of exclusion, and it will take great effort to reverse such hateful policies. My hope for the future is that it will become self-evident that no one’s worth, validity or ability to contribute their talents to benefit our world is in any way diminished by their gender, sexuality, race, religion, or any other aspect of their identity.
“Congratulations! On behalf of the President, Faculty, and Board of trustees of Bates College, we are pleased to offer you admission to the Bates Class of 2022.” For many students, opening the email or letter admitting them to college grants them permission to finally take a breath, and promises a successful future at a place they get to call home for the next four years. However, just because a student gets into college does not necessarily mean they will feel at home there. Along with college comes a new set of responsibilities on the shoulders of these students; there is the intensity of the classes, the obligation of sports and clubs, the 3 hours’ worth of work for every hour of class, the pressures of having a social life, the fear of branching too far out of your comfort zone, and the struggle to prioritize mental health and self-care. With all of this to think about, college becomes a vexing game of time management.
In the midst of this juggling act, some students are thrown a few more pins while tackling the internal conflicts that arise with the role of identity. Even at a place like Bates, where people are actively trying to make the college an inclusive and aware space, some people still face the difficulties with feeling like they don’t fit in.
A lot of the time, when college students are questioning whether or not different aspects of their identity fit in, they tend to wonder if college is even the place for them. In my own experience as a first-generation college student, there are a lot of times when college seems like a time to prove myself to those around me. Getting into college is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but for first-generation college students, it is more than just a personal achievement. Rather, it is a milestone for everyone in the family. While it is an honor to be the source of pride for your family, being the first person in your family to receive higher education can come with some obstacles. The most prominent obstacle is that first-generation students cannot benefit from their parents’ college-going experience. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether or not I’m good enough to attend a place like Bates. It can be hard to know who to turn to, but luckily at Bates, I have found many resources to rely on to guide me through these upcoming years.
Many other students can relate to the struggles of identity and belonging at Bates. The feeling of fear and uncertainty is one that can be applied to everyone in college. Whether you are unsure of who you are and who you will turn out to be in the next few years, or are feeling unsure about the next steps in your life as you commit to a major and graduate, there will always be people around you who feel the same way. Despite the complexities that come with identity and “fitting in,” everyone here at Bates College is here for a reason. Sometimes you have to think back to the moment that you opened up that acceptance letter and remind yourself that ever since you were accepted into college, you have had every right to be here and to be successful.
I didn’t understand cultural appropriation until I found myself staring directly in the eye. The first few times I probably just ignored it, or maybe I didn’t even recognize it for the fear of being the creepy brown girl, sticking her nose in other people’s business. I let it go because I don’t have the privilege to claim other people’s business as my own and judge it, unapologetically.
I have heard arguments on the other side too, don’t get me wrong. I fully entertained them because I felt like I was obliged to be the bigger person, even if that meant letting other people walk all over me, as they plundered, looted, occupied, and enslaved what was not their business. There exists an argument that pulls at a “reverse appropriation” of Western culture by the rest of the world. It doesn’t convince me though, because I am well aware of imperialism, colonialism, and the Western-centric worldview that basically paved the path for this “reverse cultural appropriation” that became synonymous with modernity and development. I am unapologetically unconvinced because it has been pushed down our throats historically, in the name of being respected and noticed in a world that is obsessed with the idea of this version of modern development.
The reality of cultural appropriation hurts because there are sections of society that can afford to do/wear culturally associated things without ever going through the struggles experienced by the people from these cultures. We are supposed to “fit in” so we can prove that we are non-threatening as people and as cultures, while the people with whom we are supposed to be assimilating unabashedly dress “exotic” at our expense. If people were ready to acknowledge and learn from the history that affects the power dynamics around the display of a cultural “trend,” then they would be free to appreciate other cultures once they’ve had this learning experience.
Even when not being subject to explicit bias for our differences, fear has taken root inside our hearts. This insecurity and lack of confidence for just being ourselves is not our fault—it was etched upon us, and onto our very existence. This insecurity looks like the forgotten pieces of colorful clothing that lie in the back of my closet. It looks like the uncertain woman I see in the mirror who, just before she walks out the door, turns around and changes into something less conspicuous. It sounds like “well-meaning” compliments that refer to my culture as “costume.” It is the many questions I would get—if there was a special reason, some occasion, an event that I decided to put on “fancy” clothes? Clothes that I grew up in and around, but now rarely wear. It feels like the anxiety that comes with the attention I get—good or bad—makes me not want to stand out, but I wonder if I will have to burn the very back of my closet in hopes of that?
Now, in all honesty, I am a lot more privileged than a lot of my fellow people of color, either living away from their cultures or having had modernity creep up on them. I am a little more racially ambiguous, aware, in a more accepting environment and at a point where it’s getting easier to be unapologetic for being me; and yet this anxiety hasn’t left my side.
I don’t want to be called an angry-snowflake who is making an issue out of a non-issue. Working on bigger, more serious issues and speaking about this somewhat invisible but pinching experience are not mutually exclusive—and I don’t want to be told what is “more important” for me to focus on. I don’t want to be called “exotic” —I am not a different species, something rare, or for a show display—there are too many of us and we want to take our identities back.