When you came up to me last year to solicit my vote, you told me you were “about” social justice. Alarms went off. You said you cared about diversity. Alarms went off. You said racism was wrong, “We all bleed red.” Alarms went off. Throughout the conversations I had with many of you, the alarms kept going off. There was this constant buzzing in my head telling me to stop talking to you. My gut was telling me to walk away from you as fast as I could. I ignored it.
I was uncomfortable that you approached me when I was trying to study. I was uncomfortable that you invaded my space without asking me if it was okay to talk to me. I was uncomfortable that you started throwing around buzzwords like “racism,” “social justice” and “diversity” before you even asked me for my name. But I ignored it all. You were nice. I understood that you were stressed with the elections and that you were just trying to be heard. I understood that you were passionate about campus politics; you wanted to make a difference. And so, I ignored my feelings of discomfort to give you a space to talk. I let you into my own, personal space. I allowed you to push your agenda.
I did not silence you. I did not tell you to stop speaking. I did not close the metaphorical door in your face and say “no.” I did not laugh at you for being passionate. Instead, I gave you a private platform for you to verbalize your hopes for this campus. Then, when I saw your name on the ballot, I voted for you. After all, you seemed like you actually cared. You fooled me. No, you did not fool me. You lied to me.
You sat there Tuesday night and proved to me that I should have listened to the alarms. You care about diversity? You care about racism? You care about social justice? Then you should have proved it when hundreds of students gathered in the Rogel Ballroom, the largest turnout CSG has had, and listened to what we had to say. You should have pushed aside your feelings of discomfort. You should have pushed aside your cowardice. You should have let us speak. Instead, you chose to silence us.
I’m a Muslim woman of color, and you attacked my personhood when you told me I could not speak. You reiterated violent rhetoric that told me I was not worthy of addressing you. By choosing to silence me, you mimicked what I have heard time and time again at the University: I have no place here. You stripped me of any power and agency that I had in this public space that I considered my home. You left me crying out in frustration at that wall of silence you built between us. You told me that it was “not the United Nations” and that you did not feel that the CSG had the authority to vote on an issue that students themselves brought to you.
You voted to postpone indefinitely without actually allowing the authors to introduce what they were proposing. You said you spoke to your constituents and asked them what they felt about it, but you did not ask me. Not one of you came up to me and asked me how I felt. Am I not here? Do I not matter? In fact, you did not ask any of us. We are students here — why do you not recognize that? Will we always be invisible to you?
You destroyed my sense of belonging when you threw your power in my face and told me to shut up. You further twisted the knife in my back when you walked out on me when I was still trying to talk to you. Your looks of disgust hurt me. You looked at me, at us, as if we were animals at the zoo and not passionate students who just wanted to speak. You kept pounding that gavel, establishing your authority, and furthering the fact that you were more relevant than I was in those proceedings. You turned your back on me when I broke down and started crying out of frustration. You left the room as I was clawing at my throat trying to get my words out. You were gone by the time I fell into my friend’s warm embrace and started asking “Why won’t they let us speak? Why don’t they ever let us speak?”
On Tuesday night, you silenced me. You were directly involved in my oppression and marginalization as a student of color on this campus. And before one of you comments “You’re just mad we didn’t choose to divest,” that is not the case at all. To be honest, I would not have cared as much if you voted “no” on divestment. I was expecting that. I was expecting disappointment. I was not expecting you to postpone the conversation indefinitely. I was not expecting you to deny us a platform to speak.
I am upset, disappointed, hurt, but more importantly, I am angry. I am angry at myself for believing you when you said you would try your hardest to represent me. I am angry at myself for giving you a space to speak when I knew deep down that you would not do the same. I am angry that I was right. I am angry at you for lying to me. You claimed to be my ally, but you sat there and debated whether or not we were even worth listening to.
I am angry, and I am calling for reparations.
I want my cookie back.
You are not my ally.
You do not represent me.
Michigan in Color is the Daily’s opinion section designated as a space for and by students of color at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about MiC, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.