The final Claiming Williams event.

At Williams, how can we effectively create and strengthen coalitions to provoke institutional and cultural changes that address privileges based on class, race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and religion? This forum will bring together any individuals interested in this work, including campus leaders from various organizations, to articulate a list of goals and demands.

I was going to write a screed describing how narrow-minded this view of Williams is. But someone way smarter already did so on WSO!

I want to make a point about an issue that’s been particularly bothering me over the last few months (though I’ve noticed this since I’ve first stepped foot on campus two and half years ago), and that is the marginalization of the White Male Athlete Who Drinks (WMAWD – I know there are a few more letters in there, but bear with me). I was especially struck by the pervasive nature of this dismissive attitude last night as I was reading a few posters set up on an easel between the two front entrances of Paresky. These posters essentially had quotes taken from students, faculty, and staff on their different perspectives of the interaction between personal identity and the Williams community. As we scanned the pages, we came across, “I feel marginalized as a white, heterosexual male athlete,” or something along those lines. My friend, who I usually find I agree with on most issues of diversity and the appropriate social and institutional response to these issues, snorted and made a remark that clearly showed his contempt. On another occasion, there was a discussion about the reclamation of Hardy House as the GSRC and someone retorted, “What are you talking about? You don’t need a space, Williams campus is your space.” And while I see some degree of validity in that statement, it highlights the widespread notion that WMAWD have such a long history of sitting on top of every social hierarchy, that they have so much privilege in comparison to the rest of us, that they simply have no say in these matters.

Essentially: Be an ally, a supporter, seek only to listen, understand, accept, or shut the fuck up.

What I’m saying here is that Claiming Williams in particular, and in general the whole compartmentalization of distinct facets of our individual identities based on our socioeconomic status, race, and sexual orientation that is so deeply ingrained into our relationship to the our personal fractured versions of Williams College, has serious undertones of “I’m poor/a minority/queer and therefore underprivileged. You, the WMAWD, have never experienced such adversity, and therefore can’t belong to our various forms of the same I Am a Victim Club. Your privilege was established through the exploitation of our communities, and therefore shut up and bow your head in shame as we give voice to our self-righteous victimization from which you profit.”

The fact of the matter is, the use of this term “privilege” is simply misleading. It implies that they have somehow been given a gift at birth, a Golden Ticket that the rest of us never got in our chocolate bars, when it would be more accurate to see the “privileged” as the standard, the norm of social status. It is more correct to see the rest of the population as “underprivileged”, as missing a trait that is artificially conceived to somehow be better. But even here, the WMAWD is the true minority. We have all have had some title that bestowed upon us all the burden and the benefits of historically rooted social adversity, which brings individuals together into a community like no other cohesive phenomenon.

It’s not enough to say that they have all the rest of the campus outside of our self-segregated spaces. It’s the fact that they are perpetually marginalized with the unspoken assertion that they simply “don’t know what it’s like.”

The whole post is genius. This was exactly what I thought at Williams 25 years ago. Can you guess the writers race or gender? Rest below.

And the fact of the matter is, we are more than our communities. We are more than our race, our culture, our money, who we have sex with, who we have feelings for, what country we come from, what state we come from, what clothes we wear, what sports team we are from. We each have our own distinct pasts, and will continue on our own separate paths. I believe that more than anything, we have more diversity in the differences between individuals of the same “community” than there are contrasts between communities as a whole.

To discount the WMAWD as “privileged” and therefore not have a voice in this whole rather twisted shouting contest of “I’ve had it bad” is to deny him the acknowledgment of pain that a man can come to outside of his community. The Williams diversity movement has caused us, at first glance and any subsequent encounters, to classify him as simply the White Male Athlete Who Drinks, who is so privileged that he must not know what it is like to have overcome obstacles, that he cannot possibly have the experiences necessary to empathize with the level of ostracization or suffering that we, the underprivileged, have gone through. Never mind the fact that the most painful moments in my life, and if you care to do some introspection, probably in yours, were all events in which I was the target of hate or discrimination. They weren’t based on the fact that I am a minority, a woman, queer, or poor. It was simply me, or simply them, or violence and rage that bubbled up from nowhere to a random target. Being white or male or straight or an athlete doesn’t protect you from say, abusive parents, or deaths in your family, your group of friends. It doesn’t protect you from things like drug abuse in your family or rape or seeing people you love otherwise ruin or lose their lives. It doesn’t protect you from hurtful insults about your intelligence, your attractiveness, or sexual prowess (don’t laugh, it’s true). It doesn’t protect you from pressure and it doesn’t protect you from disease. All of these things, and I think you’ll agree, are terrible things to live with. People who fight these battles on their own, outside of a community are in just as much pain, have overcome just as much, if not much more, than simply the labels and implications of diversity.

We cannot or do not hide our race/socioeconomic class/gender or sexual orientation while the WMAWD may have private issues you cannot discern from the color of his skin, his polo (had to throw that one in), or the girl he hooked up with on the dance floor last night.

Long story short: Give them boys a motherfucking break.

Oh, and don’t be quick to judge.

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