Letter: Safe spaces are not segregation

TO THE EDITOR:

We are two ‘non-whites’ who felt compelled to respond to your letter to the editor which claimed that a space for only people of color is evidence of reverse-racism. We disagree.

You claim that ‘our’ ancestors fought to end segregation.

May we remind you that your ancestors probably fought to keep segregation? At this point, you might throw up your hands and groan, “But that was in the past! It’s 2017. I’m different than my racist confederate ancestors!” In return, we would gently remind you that you cannot simply turn a blind eye to the past because you disagree with it. You have a responsibility to acknowledge it because those supposedly ‘mistakes of the past’ sowed the ground on which you now reap the benefits. 

Acknowledging the past also includes remembering the very foundations of segregation and its historical significance. Segregation still happens today, with regards (not only) to housing and education, and it makes a bigger impact than any one ‘non-white’ space will, but we digress.

Why not question why these spaces make you feel uncomfortable?

Consider this question in the perspective of a student of color who attends a predominantly-white university. Students of color are already living and have been living with this ‘uncomfortableness’ since the day they were born. You will never know this experience because you are not a person of color. 

Moreover, people of color are not a monolith and our experiences are not the same. This absence of knowledge isn’t meant to cripple you; rather, recognize this absence so it may be filled. Acknowledgement of your privilege as a white person is the first, but not the last step in achieving integration and equality.

In the study you cited, you fail to acknowledge how perspectives differ when discussing these spaces. The author mentions how spaces like these “provide a safe haven from the otherwise unwelcoming campus climate”, and in your letter, you fail to recognize the unwelcomeness that led to the original demand from Students4Justice.

Self-segregation of people of color should not be weaponized and used against us. If we feel empowered and safer in the presence of people who look like us then why are you so eager to dismantle that? Why does the burden fall on us ‘non-whites’ to ‘diversify’ the predominately-white population? 

If it were so important to white students who felt excluded, they would’ve made more of an effort to care about this earlier, when the racist emails came out that necessitated the original demand at UMichigan.

It’s interesting how you describe people of color as non-whites as if we only exist in negation to whiteness. Are white people the standard to which people of color must strive to meet? Do we only exist when we become “white”?

Understand that we are not representatives of Student4Justice and we can only speak for ourselves as two ‘non-whites.’ Our beliefs do not exactly align with every person of color on campus such as a random Indian freshman and his OoC (opinion of color) whom you included as evidence in your poorly constructed argument.

If more white people cared about social justice in a way that did not center whiteness and guilt, maybe these ‘desegregated’ spaces would already exist. And since you love to co-opt Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so much, we will leave you with his words to speak for themselves:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate... who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”

Insaaf Mohamed

Junior

Political Science

Seyoung Oh

Junior

Sociology and English

Thanks for reading.

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