Response to “Complaints Over Solarity Naming Flat-Out Ridiculous” Column
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This article was written in response to Aidan Apel’s May 2 column in the Review.
First off, to address what little content is presented in the piece: The column’s main claim, outside of general accusations of ridiculousness, is that “using word association is an inappropriate standard for determining what is actually offensive.”
While perhaps I might object to the idea that there can truly be an objective determination of what is actually offensive (after all, the author seems to be offended by people being offended — also a rather poor standard for determining offensiveness), on a less pedantic note, I absolutely agree that word association is a terrible standard.
Luckily, the concerns expressed in “A Response to Toxicity” are in no way, shape or form founded on such a principle. The publicly available document puts forth the argument that what Toxicity reduces to fantasy is in fact the lived reality of many, and asks us to question what sort of social forces leave us so disconnected from this reality that we can uncritically enjoy this fantasy. This strikes me as a valid reason to be “actually” offended. Furthermore, in an addendum published on April 28, the letter states that Solarity has taken these concerns seriously from the start and that a productive conversation is ongoing. So essentially, concerns were put forward, and those concerns were listened to. Why would someone feel the need to add more?
As this column and other similar responses make quite clear, the real issue is not Toxicity or the response to it. It is the very idea that someone may dare to be offended when you are not. That they may dare to have experiences youcannot comprehend, emotions that they dare to ask you to see as valid, histories that they dare to ask you to learn.
This is why the concerns of multiple student groups are dismissed as simply being because they “hate Solarity.” This is how someone can honestly compare associating the word radioactive with Fukushima to associating the word “Alliance” with the Axis powers. This is why hurt can only be “ridiculous and inappropriate.”
However, in a stroke of luck, the column provides us with examples of what the ridiculous actually looks like. It claims that the writers of the letter “use a loose association with real suffering to throw around racially bigoted statements” and “fashion [their] pedestal from a pile of real victims.” If I have to explain why claiming that an event is a bit messed up is not equivalent to building a pedestal from human corpses like some twisted demon god, then I will have lost a good deal of faith in the student body.
The idea that the letter was a bigoted statement (which I assume comes from the use of the term “white culture”) is equal nonsense. As a white person, I am overjoyed to explain to the author that whiteness is a socially constructed category that constitutes nothing other than signifying one as an oppressor within a racial hierarchy, regardless of how one feels about that. Whiteness begins and ends with oppression, and so does the associated culture.
I would be quite troubled to find out that someone actually identifies with this culture and sees it as worth defending, rather than working to abolish it and the social forces that maintain it. Defense of whiteness is the actual bigotry, and hopefully the next time students are confronted with an opportunity for a dialogue on this, they will engage in it rather than seeing it as a personal attack against them and their right to party.