Category Archives: Viewpoints

Accepting stereotypes poisons our society

Alicia Krielaart

Contributing Writer

 

“8 Dead in Atlanta Spa Shootings, With Fears of Anti-Asian Bias.” “New York man charged with hate crime in Asian American attack that bystanders watched without helping.” “Asian 7-Eleven worker punched in face in Manhattan.”  

Shot. Attacked. Hated. Punched.  

As an Asian who has grown up in the United States, these crimes and acts of violence are not surprising to me. I’m disappointed but not surprised. However, the familiarity of this hatred is still a bitter pang. Just because I am familiar with this senseless violence doesn’t mean that I should accept it. As an Asian adoptee, I’ve struggled with understanding my identity and the microaggressions I’ve experienced throughout my years have only heightened my feelings of loss and sorrow from being culturally and physically disconnected from my heritage. 

Microaggressions have followed me throughout my life such as typical Asian ‘jokes’ that are passed for a quick laugh. “Oh aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” Why should my ethnicity dictate what academic talents I may or may not possess? Asking “No, where are you really from?” Why are you invalidating my experiences as an Asian in America? Why are you asking me about my ethnicity? Does evaluating my ethnicity affect my worth as a human being? Or my favorite is, “You’re pretty cute for an Asian girl. I’m into Asian girls, they’re supposed to be more submissive and cutesy, you know?” One, I’m beautiful just the way I am, regardless of my appearance and two, what type of sick comments do you think are appropriate for when you’re trying to flirt? Why did you think this was a good approach?

These sickening comments, ‘socially accepted’ jokes and ‘justified’ questions are commonly used and accepted. This acceptance and ignorance towards Asians in America needs to stop. It’s what allows hate to spread and racism to flourish. It’s what has divided our society. It’s what allows for people to sympathize with those who hurt our community. People who swore to protect us even said, “Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did” when describing the gunman behind the Atlanta spa shooting. It’s what allows politicians to call a devastating virus that’s taken the lives of millions the “China virus.”  

As humans how can we let this cycle of hatred and pain continue? But more importantly how can we prevent this from poisoning our society? 

 

COVID shaming is destructive

Chloe Burdette

Editor in Chief

 

As someone who struggles with generalized anxiety, living through this rollercoaster of a pandemic hasn’t been easy on my mind. Don’t get me wrong — I am so incredibly grateful that most of my friends and family have managed to stay healthy during this past year, but that doesn’t mean that my worry about this sickness has faded. I have been quite vocal in my opinions on how to handle this virus, including creating arguments with people at home who think the vaccine has a microchip in it (trust me — I wish I was kidding too). Personally, I think everyone’s duty in a time like this is to social distance, wear a mask and simply give a damn about others who may not be able to fight this virus off. Nevertheless, I have never claimed to be a perfect, pandemic-living being. I take my mask down every once in a while in a public space to take a drink of water. I may get too close to those I work with in order to hear what they are saying. I mean, hell — we have all eaten in Lowry, sitting near a table with complete strangers. With all this being said, I am here to say we are all imperfect beings. Even people who try to do everything right in this COVID-filled world can still come down with the virus. I believe COVID-shaming is hurtful, damaging and may even work counterproductively in our goal of eliminating COVID for good.

Let me set the story for you — I was watching a rerun of “The Bachelor” on a Wednesday night. It was midnight when I started the episode, and the night owl in me was ecstatic to watch the unreasonable, ridiculous drama unfold for a straight hour. I had just gotten set up in my chair when I got the dreaded email from EverlyWell: “Your test results are ready!” I don’t know about you, but my heart drops every time I get that email, even though I had gone through five weekly tests with a negative result each time. I decided to immediately open the email and type my username and password in. “View Results” appeared on my computer screen. I clicked the button, and truly, my life flashed before my eyes. “Hi, Chloe! You ARE infected with the virus responsible for COVID-19.” I immediately threw on a mask and called security. A million thoughts ran through my head — who have I been in contact with? Are my roommates okay? I have work; who will work in my place? Who will announce the basketball games? How will we print The Voice this week? Looking back, I noticed one particular thing missing from my thoughts. What about ME? I had put my mental health on hold because I was too worried about others and their opinions.

Soon, I gathered my things and headed to Douglass. My roommates and close contacts were given a call the next morning, and they had to gather their things to head to the Best Western hotel in Wooster. Now, I am very happy they were comfortable in their living space for the next two weeks. But why were COVID-positive students forced to share a community bathroom — showering only one curtain away from other sick and coughing students —  and to live in a small, confining room with no fridge or microwave? I felt like I had failed; that I was being punished for being sick. Those feelings prevailed for the next ten days.

Fast-forward to the day I was released from isolation. Although I was contacted by many friends and family throughout my isolation period to check in on me, I was sadly also greeted by the many stares and comments that come with a positive test result. “Wow, way to go. You put your roommates through that!” someone said. “I am going to have to be careful around you from now on,” another person joked. “How did you get it? Why were you being irresponsible?” another asked. Even my closest friends made comments, including, “I missed out on this because YOU put me quarantine.” The comments may have seemed harmless at the time, but only made me feel worse. I still am being avoided by some of my peers, and it has been over a month since I tested positive. 

Today, I am still doing exactly what I have been doing since the start of the pandemic. I am following all CDC guidelines when I have to be in public, and now double-masking at all times. I was completely asymptomatic throughout my isolation and never had to deal with the nightmare that a COVID diagnosis is to some people. Yet, I still have those nasty comments running through my head when I pass another person in Lowry. For those who can relate to my situation, I feel for you. COVID-shaming makes you feel guilty, embarrassed and unworthy. For some, it may even keep those from disclosing their symptoms to health professionals in fear of distasteful comments and bullying. So, in reality: what does COVID-shaming accomplish? If you get anything from this Viewpoint, I just ask you to think twice before making a short-handed comment to someone who had or has COVID, even if they are asymptomatic. You have NO idea how those comments can impact their mental health.

To decolonize, we must stop policing language

Saeed Husain

Viewpoints Editor

 

I write to inform you today that the ways with which you communicate are individualized to you, and have been ascribed by the culture(s) that you grew up with and live in today. The way I write relies on the cultural framework ingrained upon me. How and what I will write relies on your interpretation, and once this piece is published, I will have no control over what you may think about it. 

My reason for writing this viewpoint is my disdain for the common occurrence that if one frames a sentence differently, places a comma where it may not fit to someone else’s expectations of a comma, or has a stylistic flow that departs from an expected medium, there are people who will ‘correct’ (or rather, police) that individual’s way of writing. I believe this to be a gross form of applying one’s own imagination and style of writing to another’s. I can see how the person correcting language might think that they are doing the individual a favour by ‘helping’ them be more clear, and that the individual stands to benefit from this.

I direct you to the first sentence in this viewpoint. Once one realizes that the ways with which they interact with the world are dependent on the contexts they have experienced, they will hopefully realize that any efforts to police language according to any social conventions are utterly useless and intensely harmful. The sentence that you reframe, the comma that you remove, and the word that you change, are all your interpretations of how language should be. It is not a set category where everyone reading the piece will interpret it in the way that you intended it. If this is the case, then why change the original writing of anyone? 

Today we are unfortunately bound by the conventions of writing english that a group of people decided to be the ‘best’ way of communicating. I feel that a response to my viewpoint here might be that we need a form of standardization, and this is why we have things like editorial guidelines for academia and journalism. Standardization apparently, is what will help us create a world where we can create shared understandings. My response is to look at how standardized notions of gender, ethnicity, race, and nationality (to mention a few of several categories), have been so unsatisfying and harmful. The standardization of language that we have created today comes from a very basic understanding of how humans communicate, and needs to be critically examined immediately if we are to decolonize ourselves from a world governed by western metaphysics. 

Our standardization of language presupposes that everyone thinks and acts in the same way. Does anyone reading this viewpoint truly think that all humans think and act in similar ways? The issue with policing language according to a presupposed standard becomes much clearer then. As we move commas or change sentences, we are restructuring individuals to think in ways that are similar to us. This renders our diversity pointless. If we are to mould each other in thinking, speaking, and writing in specific ways informed by western metaphysics, what is the point of our diversity? If we keep correcting each other, then we are not celebrating the diversity of thoughts and ideas that emerge from the multitudes of different backgrounds that we have, but are only privileging phenotypic or demographic differences. To showcase the strength of diversity, we must broaden and accept the different ways we have of expressing ourselves. 

Of course, we can have a world where everyone who graduates from The College of Wooster could have the same way of writing, or rather, every citizen of the United States could communicate similarly. We would lose out on so much of what it means to be human. If we streamline and homogenize language and self-expression, we are stifling innovation, or rather, only allowing it to exist in the categories we deem fit for innovation. More dangerously perhaps, when we police someone’s language, we are quite literally cancelling out their way of expressing themselves, and once again losing out on what we can learn from the ways they express themselves in. 

We must accept that we can never truly understand another culture or its world views if we are translating ideas and concepts from another setting into our own. Language is not a trivial part of human existence, instead it is a critical base on which we currently live. Translation is a violent act, where we forego the applied meanings which certain words or phrases may have in the temporality of another language. In translation we break away from ‘original’ meanings, and apply new ones. Policing someone’s language is an act of translation as well. Even though one may think that they are both writing the same english language, they are once again applying their own interpretations of the english language, and are then translating it to fit their world views. The reality is that we will never be able to comprehend issues and concerns unless we position ourselves entirely in that culture or society (an impossible proposition), and language plays a massive part in how world views are formed. 

I leave you with this. If we truly wish to hear and learn from the beautiful voices that exist on our campus and the world, please refrain from applying your own interpretations of how something ‘should’ be. As a community of learners, I believe that we do our best when we listen, read, and learn from others. Ultimately, that is only my interpretation.

 

The Wooster Voice engages in verbal profiteering

Z. Iris Filippi

Contributing Writer

 

Last week, I wrote to the Wooster Voice illuminating many of the hardships that befall queer students on the margins of campus, or those whose interest to which it may not be to seek help through the recommended channels. Reflecting on the sheer volume of miscommunications and cultural alienations that some of us have been subjected to, I could only conclude that “There is No One Solution to Queer Students’ Difficulties,” or the original title of my Viewpoint. As if to further prove my point, the editorial staff reworked my piece to a title of “Queer students need support,” referenced on the front page as calling attention to an explicit lack of support in what is clearly an effort to save the face of the invisible monoculture that I did my best to draw attention to last week, not to mention a blatant disregard for the “Disclaimer” posted above. What I had meant to communicate, as anyone who notices the dissonance between the piece and its title will gather, is that our support for queer students as we define it is not only far-reaching in its scope but parasitic in its aims to prop up a normative student elite. 

If my complaints sound at all like useless, internal finger-pointing that splits hairs within groups that already struggle to assert themselves against other forms of normativity at Wooster, I would remind the reader that previous Viewpoints have been offered that, if considered in earnest, could promote real violence in our community and endanger the well-being of many students, yet none of these were considered inappropriate for publication. What, then, would I have to do to make my views controversial enough to pass through the press unedited? Would I have to stir a quarter of the campus to arms or humiliate myself with extreme and unlikely politics? 

The Wooster Voice is all too happy to release pieces inflammatory enough to secure readership, but when the concerns of students failed by unrealistic approaches to inclusion wish to make themselves heard, a faceless, contented few moves to protect its satisfaction with our school’s climate as it stands. To suggest merely that we students “need support” is an assumption that we each recognise an inclusive campus in seeing one, and that matters of whose support, how it is delivered, and why we choose to help one another is irrelevant. All the while, The Voice twists our words to churn out such propagandistic orders as they confounded my last piece into.

By industrializing the aims of my previous contribution into a more commoditised claim palatable to students who have already found their everything in terms of acceptance, The Voice commits itself to a path of fraud leading only to the cementing of a privileged aristocracy on our campus and forfeits its mission to represent a diverse range of voices. To echo last week’s piece, I can only hope that a resilient, few voices can overpower this gross form of censorship, and while I cannot know the outcome of the second Scot Council elections as I write this, I would advise the incoming administration to think carefully in terms of the views they choose not to represent, especially with regards to their own placement.

Lowry needs to spice up the menu

Makeda Teklemichael

Contributing Writer

 

In middle school I learned about how some words are not read the same way they’re spelled. Some of the letters are seen as silent letters, like the word “sign” where the ‘g’ is silent. That is kind of how I see the spicy chicken sandwich at Lowry, but the spicy is silent. You can blame it on the fact that I am an international student from Ethiopia. It is true: I grew up eating things that burnt my tongue and made my nose runny. However, it is the good kind of burn, one that serves a fresh reminder of home. 

When I moved to Ohio for college, I realized a lot of things. One, ordering from Ethiopian restaurants is only an option for those who have cars and plan to drive over an hour to get it. Sadly, since I don’t exactly know how to drive or have a car, that wouldn’t work for me anyway. Secondly, whatever is considered spicy for most Americans was just ketchup for me, and that every time I ask for hot sauce in my food, I have to ask for three times as much as any domestic person would, with someone questioning “are you sure?” in between each request.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we are different on a cultural level in terms of what we eat. However, if Wooster is so persistent on international student diversity and bringing international students to campus to diversify the community, we should also be considering how to make them feel like home. I can tell you that unseasoned chicken and undercooked rice at the international station does not quite make me feel home. 

 

Being homesick already makes it challenging to cross the barrier of culture shock. The environment is different, the people are different, the weather is different — let me rephrase that — very different. However, sometimes taste triggers good memories and eating your country’s food eases that anxiety and reminds us that the College of Wooster does remember international students, and that they are there to make us feel at home as well. 

Moreover, it’s not just about opening an International Station in Lowry. There’s nothing international about white rice. International is a lot of cultures, and that’s why there should be different themes for every week where the food choices are not really dedicated towards a particular continent. If the rotation of food choices could expand its variety, it also accommodates ALL international students making us minority cultures just as represented. While Lowry already has routinely themed choices on the menu, it lacks a lot of diversity.

I am not asking that there should be Ethiopian food immediately, but diversifying our choices of what to eat would make the transition for international students here at the College much smoother. Additionally, that extra effort to make it really taste like home makes us know that to a certain extent there is a motive to invest in our comfort here at Wooster and that effort won’t be forgotten. So please, if you want to diversify our community, diversify our menu too.

Queer students need support

Iris Filippi

Contributing Writer

 

 

For all that is done to accommodate students of diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds at Wooster, and a great deal is done, it is broadly and consistently held that many queer students have yet to feel at home; whether for issues of social interaction or the logistics of maintaining multiple identities on and off campus. When these challenges prove to be too much and interrupt focus on coursework or impart unbearable psychological strain, we turn first to our college resources; this is perhaps in the hopes of finding in them a reliable, codified approach to be reproduced for succeeding students and their own obstacles. 

While we are right to look towards a sense of Wooster community to alleviate these disharmonies, so often overlooked is the contingent diversity of geographic, economic and cultural backgrounds permeating the student body. What one finds, looking beyond the loudest proponents of a more sustainable support, is that among queer students what could be intended as a sheathed affirmation from one could be taken as a naked insult or a form of gatekeeping by another. In spite of a blanket consensus towards mutual support, we have among us students from environments supportive and otherwise. To suggest an entry-level understanding of inclusion for those incoming, whether seeking to change their name or only to organize in spirit of their shared identities, may be a mistake. 

As a newcomer to an affirming community, hardly did I think diversity would be a harmonious affair through and through. I was nonetheless surprised at how unnavigable the interplays between those satisfied with Wooster’s efforts at inclusion and those demanding more of them are. I was not alone in finding these facets of the Wooster experience to be difficult to interface with, and I am sorry to say that it is a source of a great deal of factionalism among incoming students. Some, hearing so great a dissonance between their own, humble concerns and the privilege of their colleagues, resort merely to go about their identities modestly, eschewing such mainstays as queerness and pride. Others, seeing the struggles of the excluded as a figment of their own high school formation, dismiss fortified equity altogether, having already found their foothold. Still others, and a great many at that, have yet to consider how their identities intermesh with other campus goings-on. 

I share this not as a hard complaint but in a testimony of fact, for there are surely students whose experiences I have misrepresented and who would find this piece as polarizing as another misinterpretation of their intricate stories. That being the case, I would hope we can learn from this discussion that no single policy change, whether encouraged by students or staff will be the liberation of our constituency. I for one have yet to happen upon the “perfect” solution; one that will fully nurture personal growth on and off campus, and I sometimes suspect that many do not reflect often enough on their own progress. Regardless, we might try looking behind ourselves to those less adjusted to collegiate relations before throwing our full zeal behind administrative convenience this or student enculturation that, just as to gain their perspectives on what, in fact, our identities mean to us and how we can best facilitate each in our policies and relationships as an intentionally inclusive community before letting our intentions get the better of our sensitivity.