Nobody leaves college the same as when they stepped in.
When debating whether the history or the intent of a word matters more, the purpose of the “More Than Words” campaign is lost. Jeff Garcia himself admitted that: “There is no doubt that Macalester’s latest awareness campaign has become a ubiquitous part of campus discourse, inspiring more discussion in one semester than some Mac campaigns could dream of.” The point of this campaign is to reevaluate why we, as an individual or as a group, use certain words.
I do not believe the committee for this campaign wholeheartedly believes that this series would change the vocabularies of every Macalester student. However, it calls into question the very crux of our language choice – where is it based, who is it targeting and why are we still using it? Some of these terms seem callous and hurtful while others are more comical.
Like Garcia, I also did not come from a “progressive background” and was quite shocked to the amount of “PC” on campus. However, I learned that there is a line that we as Macalester students can walk to be inclusive of all identities. We all come to this school from different places and spaces of thought, but that does not mean the conversation should stop. Yes, some people should step back and try to understand the perspectives of those of us who came from less progressive backgrounds.
Those who immediately shut down others without an explanation or giving some sort of benefit of the doubt are missing the point.
This campaign will not change how everyone speaks. Nor will it eliminate the use of certain words. We work within a system of constructs that delegitimize the feelings and identities of many throughout this world. We all know this. We came to this school to be changed. We came to become more socially aware.
This conflict is natural, but not purposeless. Let us come together to understand the content and intent of these words. Then one can make the decision of when or if a word should be used.
Basing your fears of being persecuted due to unfamiliarity with the terrain can initially be jarring for some – a kind of ignorance. But the worse situation is lambasting someone with no comprehension of the history, no intent with the word.
We do not live in a vacuum; we cannot assume that everyone has the same knowledge as we do. So let us open the conversation.