Why “safe”, “inclusive”, and “community” should not be seen in the same sentence
Rakesh Prabhakaran || Guest Columnist
Photo from 343 Industries
In a community which is so accepting of all religions, sexual orientations, and cultures, we sometimes commit the fatal error of being intolerant of the ‘intolerant’. If we want to create a truly “safe and inclusive” environment (to quote the 14th October opinion piece, which was written to express concern over the parody posters in the elevator), we must acknowledge that the racist, sexist, or the transphobic have equal right to their opinion as everyone else. By forcing them to self-censor themselves into not expressing their opinions, we are doing exactly what we set out not to do. We are creating a community which discourages open expression for a minority (or majority) group – if they do speak out, it is at the risk of violent backlash, simply because the other’s views are more vehement.
Everyone has a right to their view, no matter how ridiculous, and everyone should be able to express it and be accountable for it. It’s what creates a creative, diverse environment, and allows people to express their discontent and happiness openly. Taking down posters is oppressive. Keep in mind that doing this has infringed upon the “wellbeing and safety” of the transphobic community by tearing down their point of view. We cannot strive for this idealistic lovey-dovey harmonious community at the cost of silencing the minority opinion. We cannot hesitate to put up our expressions of discontent, rebellion, or humour, no matter how contentious. If we could all live in absolute harmony, I would be deeply disturbed. I came to a college where students co-exist with a multitude of views. If we are all in agreement about everything, either we are all truly the same person, or many people are self-censoring themselves every day for the sake of others. Is that fair? Who decides who should compromise? The majority? The most vocal? The historically most oppressed?
This issue digs deep into our community – YNC Confessions, intolerant remarks in public spaces, lift posters, etc. Unfortunately, the posters which created some of this ruckus were not in the slightest intended to be transphobic, which is where I have to agree with you that there could have been “more appropriate and sensitive methods” to have fun. I am all for community, and we should all strive to better this community that gives us so much, but we cannot force someone to sacrifice their individuality for the community. If an individual chooses to do something at the expense of others, you know what? That’s their choice, and they accept any repercussions. In the same way, we can’t ostracize someone or hold grudges against them for choosing to act in their own interests – they have every right to, just as you do if you choose to.
People within our community are too easily offended. Not everyone will subscribe as strongly to your views or to political correctness; dislike it as much as you will – it’s counterproductive to get offended by their opinions and grudgingly attach a damaging judgement onto the individual for his or her beliefs. I do not mean to say that we ought to put up lewd posters, or be encouraged to dress up as Ebola victims, or condone the use of ‘gay’ as an adjective, but should it happen, we should be mature enough to constructively settle things face to face. We came to this college from various social backgrounds. We cannot expect everyone to conform to the idealistic views of a community that we hold. We can try to unite our community, but if people ultimately differ in opinion, we must let them express themselves freely and be held fully accountable, even if it goes against everything we believe in. That’s the sacrifice we make in having an inclusive community.