Authenticity Through Identity a Misguided Concept

Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura

College senior AD Hogan’s recent apology letter to the Review deeply upsets me. I understand the motivation behind the interruption of Krislov’s interview with CNN, though not through any productive communication offered by AD or the other students involved. I understand because I have felt misled before by persons claiming transparency and cooperation, though I believe Krislov and the rest of the Oberlin administration have worked extremely hard to do what is right by everyone and that the sabotage of that interview was unwarranted.

What makes my opinion supposedly different from hundreds of other students with similar feelings is my identity. I am lucky enough to be half-Japanese which, according to the standards in AD’s letter, gives my voice authenticity. (Does this compensate for my white half ?) I am straight and male, so I make no claims to ever being discriminated against based on my sexual orientation or gender, but apparently being a (partial, I appreciate my whiteness too) minority means I know infinitely more than ( full) white and heterosexual people about bias and hate speech.

To be frank, that attitude is bullshit.

People are marginalized, bullied, ignored and hated for many reasons. While skin color, heritage and sexual orientation provide for the bulk of oppressive actions, they are not necessarily more sensitive or valuable than other parts of our identities. Mental illness, for one, transcends race, gender, age and any other category I can think of.

My mother has worked in social services for the last twenty years. She has helped hundreds of individuals grapple with severe drug addictions and mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Many of these people have suffered more from marginalization than me or AD, despite the two incomplete labels they present in their letter. I would rather be nonwhite and/or LGBTQ than mentally unstable 10 times out of 10; the burdens AD’s letter uses to imply superior victimhood pale in comparison to not having full control of your thoughts or body.

My twelve-year-old sister has bipolar disorder and a host of other issues. If both of her parents were white, would AD tell her to stand back and recognize her “privilege”? The world sees her slightly slanted eyes and fair skin, but not her inner turmoil. She is twelve, and has dealt with more hell than you or I ever will. How many fellow Oberlin students face hardships we cannot see, AD? Too many to discount voices based on skin color and sexual orientation.

Just because society favors some groups over others does not mean an individual of a particular majority has never overcome adversity equal to or greater than that faced by an individual of a specific minority. Is this often the case? No. Do I tend to devalue someone else’s opinion based on their privilege? Yes, I do, and I am not proud of it. But I try to limit the impulse to judge because my past hardships remind me of when I was ignored, ridiculed or threatened based on someone’s narrow view of my life.

The letter calls for “accountability” and “self-reflection,” yet it fails to mention who started the petition for a public apology: members of the senior class who felt misrepresented by AD’s letter. Listening goes both ways, AD.

I write in hopes of our community upholding the two principles above. But above all, I  write in anger and for shame: anger for AD’s infuriatingly shortsighted words and actions, and shame for their inappropriate representation of many Oberlin students. I too am committed to justice and equality. But also to responsibility, real open-mindedness and empathy.

—Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura
College sophomore