Four Years of Walking By: A Response to Kenyon Activism
It happens every year. That’s what I tell first years when they look at me with wide-eyed confusion at the megaphones and the posters telling queer people they need Jesus and women that they need to be quiet. After four years you get used to it, but every year it hurts in different ways.
As a first year, I was hurt because I was newly out of the closet and there were some people trying to force me back in. Now I’m angry and frustrated for an entirely different reason. I want to talk about performative allyship, and how here at Kenyon, it’s something of a disease.
There’s a buzz of excitement when the middle path protesters come to town. I’m not saying that’s a positive excitement, but there’s more of a sudden spike in energy among the community, and suddenly everyone wants to respond to this outward display of hatred.
While walking to Peirce on Tuesday, I watched at least four students stop to argue with the protesters, which is exactly what they want. They are looking for a response, they are looking for debate, and if you talk to them, they will view you only as another soul they might be able to save.
It’s a waste of energy, time, and as a person who has worked with queer groups on campus since I got here in 2014, it’s frankly insulting.
Arguing with protestors is easy. You say your piece, you know you’re right and they’re wrong, and then they leave campus, taking their posters and megaphones with them. You can pat yourself on the back for doing a good deed of the day, and reassure yourself that you are an ally.
The people who argue with the protestors are the same people who will ignore diversity events on campus. Every queer or diversity event I went to last year, whether it was put on by Unity, ODEI, or any other group, was usually attended by the same twenty people (usually members of a minority group.)
I’m not by any means saying I’m perfect, or that I know everything. I’m still learning every day how to be a better ally to minorities and how best to support them.
But one thing I do know, is that arguing with protestors doesn’t change the hate and the ignorance that already exists on this campus.
When I was a first year, I was walking home one night and someone screamed faggot at me out of a car window. I don’t know if that person went to Kenyon or not, or even if it was directed at me, but it made me feel genuinely afraid for the first time at Kenyon.
I’ve been out on plenty weekend nights and heard the word faggot thrown around like it was just a word, and didn’t have an immense amount of negative power over so many people. The truth is, there are people on this campus who are just as harmful as people with megaphones.
When I was a sophomore, and I was openly queer and leading Qdubs, and when the protestors came, a person came up to me and told me all about how they had stood up to the protestors and told them off. That person had looked at me expectantly, as if they were looking for me to praise them for defending me.
Now, I’m a senior, and I have walked past those megaphones more than a dozen times. It is not the outsiders that make me sad and angry, it is the people in our own community.
If you are truly disgusted by what is going on out there, prove it. Don’t argue with the protestors. Instead, walk right past them and attend a meeting at Unity House, or stop by Snowden. Support the Kenyon Men of Color, Sisterhood, and the dozen other diversity groups on campus when they put on events. There are so so many opportunities to support minorities on this campus, there is a way we can make people feel safer every day, not just once a year. Stop reacting to immediate crisis and start showing your support everyday.
Canterbury sent out a very kind email after the protesters came reminding everyone that they are loved. While that is true and kind of them to say, it does not change the fact that we are also hated. We will always be hated, the middle path people will always come, but how you continue to act once they leave, and throughout the rest of your life, could change how effective that hate is.