Social justice conversations on campus pose a certain question: who deserves what from whom? They often begin and end with accusations of purposeful injustice. Students are too often accused of being sexist, racist and heterosexist by a radical left who believes they are the final authority on issues of social justice. Once accused, there is no appeal. I am here to say that no one group has a monopoly on social justice. Instead, these issues require open, respectful and encompassing discussion.
In the most recent hot-button social justice issue, ASG, along with student groups Reproco, Young Fems and Queers & Allies used student activities fees to pay for “I Heart the Female Orgasm” in Ford Chapel. Many Christian students on this campus felt that the decision to host the event in the Chapel was a less than respectful move on the part of the organizers. In a statement that he released to the Meadville Tribune, President Mullen agreed, and so did I. When I decided to be vocal about this sentiment, I was accused of sexism and unsupportive of female sex education.
In another episode of a social justice snafu, columnist Katie Beck accused the new fraternity on campus, Phi Gamma Delta’s, sweetheart application sexism, because the brothers wanted the sweetheart to “educate [them] in etiquette and manners” and that she would be “treated with the utmost dignity and respect.” These phrases were misconstrued and convoluted by Beck to unfairly label the FIJIs sexist. This example of fishing for oppression marred the image of FIJIs.
In the campaign of Kevin Crooks and Gena Thomas, some students attacked Thomas for being both anti-feminist and anti-minority for taking a vice presidential position to Kevin Crooks, who happens to be a white male. It seemed odd to call her anti-feminist and anti-minority, since she was both a woman and a very proud Indian. No one seemed to acknowledge her reasoning for taking on the vice presidential role or for having a more hands-on approach in ASG.
In a discussion of diversity initiatives that I attended during the fall semester, a white friend of mine disagreed with a comment made by an African-American student. He articulated his sentiment as carefully and respectfully as possible. However, he was quickly ravaged by another student’s accusation of racism. My friend, humiliated and perplexed, kept his mouth shut for the rest of the discussion.
In each of these instances, students were singled out by those who feel they have a superior understanding of social justice, the very students who preach inclusivity and respect. Some students hold others to a standard they forget to apply to themselves. That some students are immediately labeled racist and sexist in conversations concerning social justice is testament to the hypocrisy of the radical left at our school. In these instances, I am embarrassed to be a part of the progressive left who values social justice.
As a student who qualifies as diverse in more ways than one, I know that Allegheny often falls short of its Statement of Community. However, in order to make any progress on social justice issues, there needs to be a greater degree of civility and inclusivity in these conversations. Otherwise, these conversations will forever repeat themselves in echo chambers that will ultimately fail to impact social justice on campus. I also believe that college life is far too exciting to be framed solely in terms of oppression and liberation.
Not every statement a man makes is sexist. Not every statement a white student makes is racist. Not every statement a straight student makes is heterosexist. We all should be considered equal participants in social justice discourse.