Monday, an article in The Michigan Daily was published outlining a petition signed by more than 320 University of Michigan students condemning the campus climate of safe spaces, the genuine fear minorities face and University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel’s letter in response to the election results. Throughout this article, we would like to address those who signed the petition, as well as the personal statements.

We are not crying because we lost an election. To think that way would be to dismiss the very raw and realistic fear that communities of color and marginalized folx are facing. Let us be clear: this is not sore loser mentality. Rather, as we saw Friday night with the hate crime on our campus along with various other hate-inspired crimes (see here), we are upset and afraid, with reason to be. The fear of minorities has been exacerbated due to president-elect Donald Trump’s blatant racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic and misogynist statements. Interpreting the increase in incidence of hate crimes and loss of sense of safety due to our identities as an angry outburst because we lost something is reductive and invalidating of the terrifying experiences students have had.

This is bigger than any election — these are real fears in response to human rights abuses since well before this election. Students have always rallied for this in the past as well, and would have continued to do so if Hillary Clinton had won. We have seen the rise in fascism regardless of candidate, and this is our own outcry against that. In this election, all we have seen is the justification of the same hatred that we have consistently fought against, something that has increased dramatically since the day of the results. It hurts that we need to continue validating attacks on our existence. We have normalized violence against marginalized students to the point that attacks and threats to our safety are not considered to be important. Our protest is to show that this will not be normalized. This will not become the new status quo, in which people of color and other minorities feel unsafe leaving their own homes. We have seen a problematic rhetoric on this campus by many students that students of color and other marginalized students are not welcome here. This campus does not exist in a vacuum — this has been happening all over the country, and as such, only exacerbates the feeling that we are not welcome, not wanted and not safe. We look to the administration for support and safety when the students around us cannot ensure it.

Even in the video you shared on one of your petition documents of a Trump supporter on this campus who claimed to be assaulted, there are other students visibly protecting the individual and ensuring his safety. That same protection has not been granted to marginalized students, especially Black and Muslim students. Have you ever advocated against the blatantly racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, etc. fliers that have been posted all over campus? If you are so invested in making sure people are not attacked for who they are, where is the galvanized support against that? Where has your response and support been there? We have never advocated for violence against anyone as an organization. We have always just asked for our own safety. We have always only asked for the safety of marginalized students, safety that has never been assured us, safety that has never been given to us. This has always been our rhetoric — to receive the necessary support for us to be able to stay safe and succeed, the same way that you all want. The same the University administration that you have felt has failed you has affirmed your right to free speech every step of the way. This statement of yours has served as a condemnation and invalidation of our identities — in which your political affiliation must be free from criticism while our lives and identities can continue to be attacked.

It also seems that white students/students with privileged identities have been articulating their “lack of safety” due to the discomfort of feeling outnumbered in a “predominantly liberal” institution. Safety, as we defined earlier, is not complacency in ideology or lack of challenging views. Safety is giving all students an opportunity to express themselves and ensuring that they will not face violence — both physically and mentally. While being a conservative Republican may make you feel uncomfortable in some environments on campus, those are also viewpoints and opinions, which can only be challenged. For a person of color or other minorities the reality is much different, as it is not just an opinion. Their identities (race, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship, gender, etc.) automatically lend them to societal disadvantages. Meanwhile, privileges such as being white, man, cisgender, Christian, heterosexual, from high socioeconomic class, a citizen of the United States and more, give individuals unearned advantages in society.

This is a call for empathy. When students, and as some of your personal statements noted, professors, voice that they are concerned with the election results, perhaps it is the time to try to open your hearts. At the University, not everyone looks like you, or has the same identities as you, and subsequently not everyone experiences their daily lives in the same way as you do. Rather than dismissing and rejecting people based on the experiences that occur in their daily life, it would seem to be more productive and caring to listen and try to make your peers and professors feel safe in their educational journey, just as they have done for yours.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.