A few nights ago, I found myself pondering how democracy has been sugar-coated for so long—how the voices of the unheard have been overlooked and glazed over, how civil disobedience hasn’t been sugar-coated but the organizations that rose against it have. The debate Thursday night made me question if corruption can really be separate from such a system. As Dr. Camper said in his opening, democracy can never be perfect. It, instead, is made of the imperfections of ideas found in opposing beliefs. However, seeing that our democracy is nowhere near perfect, the two extremes on both ends of the spectrum have left us divided.
Questions posed that especially intrigued me included the definition of a safe space and the masking of derogatory terms. Dr. Whitehead made a point that the fact that universities need safe spaces is almost retrogressive. As a student said, universities are to be a market of ideas however, the presence of division in ideas is very unfortunate. In continuation, Dr. Whitehead poses the idea that divisions should be faced head on, with direct confrontation to understand why and where certain ideas were raised. The effectiveness of this approach spoke out to me the most and would continue to circulate my head as listened to Dr. Reynolds’ response.
There was a point in the debate where I could easily identify with Dr. Reynolds’ anecdote of subtle racism in the northeast as opposed to the unfiltered racism in the south. It may be a strange conclusion, but I also agree that I would rather have someone be outright racist towards me than make shrewd remarks or actions that they’d think I didn’t see or hear. As silly as it seems being a privileged Asian who has only experienced sly remarks when calling home in her native language, I could still understand what Dr. Reynolds meant when he said democracy was a street fight. I was able to identify with him not only because he was a person of color, but also because he acknowledged that he was in a privileged position. He said something that I thought was very important when describing his metaphor of a street fight; to be part of the cause I would have to take strong action, otherwise I would never be included in it, or even worse, lose.
Not too long ago, an educated person of authority and expertise told me I wasn’t a person of color. My entire world was crushed. It seemed as if I didn’t lose a chunk but the entirety of my identification. I understand the truth that my race makes the highest income, but it still hurt to know that such a statistic would undermine the struggles of my immigrant parents. When Dr. Reynolds stressed the importance of getting into this fight to actually make a difference, I had to realize I still could do something. This is why I agree with barefaced racism so I could, with what ever reason I have, take action and understand the source of that person’s argument. Taking to heart Dr. Whitehead’s suggestion that we ought to unmask the intention behind subtle and blatant derogatory words with civil confrontation, I had to ask myself if I cared that I may not be a person of color with privilege to take action.
With some reluctance, I am still unable to figure out the answer to this question. The metaphor of a street fight invokes a call to action, however society’s position on it is what I believe prevents me from it. Though it is entirely my fault that I am idle in this street fight, I want to believe that I can take action with small steps. Perhaps I’ll reach an answer, but I’m glad the questions of my identity resurfaced in this debate. It was enlightening to hear what Dr. Reynold, Dr. Whitehead and the student panelists thought about the topic in a civil way. It reassured to me that healthy debate is totally possible and gave me a sense of comfort hearing their openness on the issues. Now I suppose the next probable step for me is to take this example of civil debate and apply it to my situation in understanding this street fight of democracy.