I rarely read the Tufts Daily, but as I was waiting for my friend in Dewick, my curiosity got the better of me. Unfortunately, I was reminded why I don’t like reading the Daily. Well, maybe just the columns.
Will Ehrenfeld has a column called “Stuff Tufts People Like,” which I am sure is a rip off of that “Stuff White People Like” website that was actually funny. This particular piece was not. It was titled “Cliques.” It seems harmless enough, but it actually turned into an attack on the culture centers, but not ALL of them. Just the Group of Six, which includes the Women’s Center, LGBT Center, Africana Center, International Center, Latino Center, and Asian American Center. I knew I was going to hate this article as soon as he mentioned his “curiosity” at the signs that International students or coloured students may get on their doors freshman year.
Then he says “Tufts people love belonging to a minority group or, at the very least, a group that at one point has been discriminated against. I’m going to call this a thirst for victimhood.” I added the bold myself. I honestly could NOT believe he said this! First of all, it is not like people who are in marginalized groups CHOOSE to be discriminated against. I’m pretty sure most of us would enjoy to not have to be automatically disadvantaged in so many aspects of life because of our gender, sexual orientation, race, or country of origin. I think it’s very wrong and OFFENSIVE for him to just assume because people who participate in activities at a culture house that they may identify with just want to just BATHE in their victimhood, loving every minute of it.
He then admits that he is a privileged white male himself and “tried pretty hard to find a maligned group that [he] could be a part of, but [he's] a straight white male from Connecticut, [doesn't] identify with any religious sect, nor [does he] have particularly outrageous political views.” OK, fine. Great. This isn’t helping his point at all. It just shows how he is in a position to NOT be able to understand what it’s like to be in a marginalized group and recognize the necessity, or even just the benefit of these houses. I’m sorry that your personal thirst for victimhood wasn’t quenched because you’re not a part of a group that’s been oppressed.
Will also seems to be selecting which groups he is picking on. Yes, all those centers exist, but there are also other houses dedicated to a particular culture. For example, Tufts has a German House as well as a Hillel; there are countless (well it feels like it!) culture clubs that are mostly comprised of those who identify with that culture. Why does he choose to ignore these? Tufts obviously is supporting the other culture clubs and houses. The lack of acknowledgment of other efforts that Tufts makes the column more frustrating and infuriating. I think he has this all wrong.
Perhaps he spends too much time with his white friends and looking at other students, wondering why HE doesn’t have “different” friends. What he writes makes it seem like he thinks that people of different backgrounds do not interact. He says,
The interesting thing isn’t wanting to belong to a group of similar peers; psychologically and sociologically, it makes sense for a minority individual to seek out other minority group members within a larger group with whom they can identify. My concern is the self-segregation of these cliques, where groups typically don’t mix and “outsiders” aren’t welcome. We can have diversity, but it’s meaningless without social interaction.
I know from my personal experience that as a minority that it is practically IMPOSSIBLE to not socially interact with someone outside of your race/gender/orientation. WE HAVE SOCIAL INTERACTION. I think one part of white privilege is that you CAN more easily spend most of your time with people of your own colour and you don’t have to worry about others looking at you and point and exclaim “self-segregation!” Perhaps we go to schools with the same name, but the Tufts I experience is one where people of all backgrounds and identities interact and befriend each other.
Will tries to and fails at justifying why he thinks what he is saying is true.
I’m not talking about affirmative action or anything to do with admissions — it’s the orientation process and the Dean of Students’ Office’s explicit focus on encouraging cliques that concerns me.
I don’t think that having centers available automatically causes cliques. Also, I have heard of many people in OTHER orientations (Wilderness, the volunteer one) complain that it can be “cliquey.” Having the centers will not FORCE anyone to form a “clique.” I applaud the Dean of Student’s Office recognizing the needs for these places. Will’s experience of going to two events (one held by the LGBT center and another sponsored by the Africana Center) is FAR from enough for him to even have an educated opinion as to why these centers are apparently unnecessary and creating “cliques.” Nothing is being pushed and no one is promoting self-segregation. It’s just really easy to look at a group of minorities together and accuse them of being self-segregating.
Also I think it is important to stress that it can be important for some people who are minorities to have a safe space where they can feel comfortable. I also know that they DO welcome people that may not have the same identity and love it when they do come and participate in the events. Also, I think Will was struggling to think of something to say for his column, however I think a not-so-great side of him came out when he claimed that people who identify with a marginalized group just LOVE to play the victim.
He writes a disclaimer in the comments of the online version of his article. He seems to be missing the point. There is meaningful interaction amongst the students. This issue has been brought up many times before by many white people who don’t understand the necessity of these centers and groups. I think he is held back by his own assumptions and prejudices. The events ARE opened up, but people often think that they are not welcomed because it’s hosted by a particular group. He’s not bringing anything new to the table.
This column was not done correctly. I think using the words “victimhood” and implying that people who are Black, Asian, Female, LGBTQIA, Independent automatically go into “cliques” just riles people up. It makes me doubt how legitimate his argument may be because of his word choice and how he articulated his thoughts. Also, he wrote like every asian will be friends with each other in this clique and NO OUTSIDERS ALLOWED! His point of view is very otherizing and he just. doesn’t. get it.
Anyway, I’m going to close this out with a message to Will Ehrenfeld: Your male, white privilege is showing. I highly recommend reading this, titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Maybe it’ll open your eyes.