We’ve all heard it before, if not said it ourselves. “If only people were willing to talk it out!” I hear this cry every Thanksgiving with my family, on every news station, all over social media, and most recently in a Technician OP-ED called “A problem with student activism in the Divided States of America.”
First things first, I need to point out that this statement and the OP-ED is fueled by the idea that neutrality is best and if we could all just agree to disagree, the country wouldn’t be in shambles. This is an insultingly dismissive and narrow-minded perspective that doesn’t help anyone except for the people with social power (e.g. white, heterosexual, cis-bodied, able-bodied). It’s essentially just telling people to get over themselves. “Stop complaining about things that I don’t experience and can’t understand.” It’s like someone breaking their leg, screaming that it hurts, and then another person coming up to them and saying, “Oh geez why are you yelling, stop being such a cry baby.”
However, that’s not really what I want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is how hollow this plea for conversation is. Let’s be real, we NEED to talk about our differences. We all have so much to learn from each together and need to open our eyes to those around us. We can’t progress as society if no one’s willing to get out their comfort zone and talk.
But you know what’s awesome? Those opportunities already exist! They’re called the Multicultural Student Affairs Center, the African American Cultural Center (AACC), the Women’s Center, and the GLBT center. And guess what again? They’re right here on NC State’s campus. All of them are located in the Talley Student Center, except for the AACC which is located in Witherspoon. While these places were created to be safe spaces for marginalized students, they also have staff and volunteers who are constantly putting in effort to reach out to more students. As a group facilitator at the Women’s Center, I can attest to the fact that there are always opportunities to discuss and learn from each other. I have friends and peers who work hard every day to create opportunities for education and conversation. Whether it’s weekly in person events, Instagram stories, or tabling in Talley, I cannot express how many ways marginalized folks on campus are trying to talk about this stuff.
But the only way to get people to actually pay attention is protest. So let’s be 100% clear. The problem isn’t the protesting. The problem isn’t that no one was willing to cross that invisible barrier between protesters and event attendees. The problem is that if we aren’t protesting, we aren’t being heard. The problem is that conservatives on campus aren’t willing to put in the work, to do the research and educate themselves before dismissing our actions.
There is no perfect world between oppression and liberation. When one side is demanding freedom and the other shuts their eyes and demands complicity, there is no room for compromise. We’ve always been open to conversation and will continue to do so. You’re just not willing to listen.
Kali Fillhart is a fourth-year studying anthropology and sociology.