Comic Didn’t Promote Dialogue

To the Editor:

Most people I know would view the comparison of a women- only space to segregation to be false and cruel. This is addressed to those of you that think this is just and correct. First of all, I am an African-American woman who lives in Baldwin. This cartoon [by sophomore Patrick Schwemmer in last week’s Review] affects me as a house member, as a feminist working through the ways in which race and gender oppression intersect and as the descendant of people who have lived through segregation and slavery.
In looking at the relevance the discussion of safe spaces and segregation has today, it is important that we look at the experiences of black women who live within spaces such as Baldwin. This cartoon denies our existence and our agency. What options does the “black” figure in the cartoon have after ze realizes that ze cannot enter the “white only safe space”? Does ze simply turn and walk away? This house, and other houses on this campus are a response to oppression. We create a space for ourselves. In the case of Baldwin, where there is not a house for Asian-American feminists, Latina feminists and African-American feminists, among many others, we have to work within this space to resist the oppression we feel throughout our lives. Is it assumed that women of color do not live here just because this house is viewed as (and I believe is) a space for white women? How do the three African-American women (out of 34) deal with the oppression we face within these walls and throughout this campus? This event has sparked a lot of debate in Baldwin; it is one of the few times race has been mentioned. If it is so easy to ignore the fact that race exists when dealing solely with gender oppression, why are black women used to point out inequalities between white men and white women? Why is it justified for white women to discuss race only when and as soon as their space is attacked, yet refuse to discuss the racism they perpetuate daily in their lives? People must address how the agency of black women and other women of color who live in Baldwin is being ignored –– are we tokens in this space or are we fighting for our voices to be heard? Can this discussion take place without acknowledgement of our gender, race and experience?
Finally, getting down to what this whole issue is really about –– white male safe space. Why do you need one when the whole world is your safe space? If you feel oppressed on this campus that is fine, we can work with that. I’m sure many safe spaces on this campus would be happy to have real dialogue with you all. But don’t expect other people to work against ending the oppression you face when you have no interest in ending ours. Spend some time thinking about who you are, where you come from, and what that means and then get back to us when you are ready for REAL constructive dialogue.

–Lisa Merriweather
College sophomore


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