Shit has apparently been hitting the fan at Evergreen. It came up in my FB feed the day of, and I’ve been kinda watching the news/ keeping an eye on developments/ cheering for the protesters.
At first, I was kinda lost about why this was news. I don’t mean why there was a protest; I mean why off-campus news outlets were giving a fuck. Evergreen has been doing Day of Absence/ Day of Presence for years— I’m not sure when it started, but I started in 2012 and it was a tradition.
Basically, on Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, minority students retreat from the campus and don’t participate. For DoA/DoP, “minority” has generally included, as I understand it, both POC and LGBTQA persons. The purpose is to highlight their value and impact in our communities, and the effect (loss) to the community felt by their absence. It’s also to honor the memory of lives taken too early by persecution and discrimination, as well as (I always felt) a quiet reminder that we cannot take the danger threatening the lives of our POC/ LGBTQA classmates and professor’s lightly, and must fight to protect their rights and safety.
I lived off campus and was a night/ weekend student, so I wasn’t exactly in thick of campus culture. I learned about this, literally, after the first DoA/ DoP while I was a student. I had no forewarning. Just one day there were these signs and banners about Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, and some of my classmates weren’t in class.
When I asked what the Absence/ Presence thing was and it was explained, I thought it was pretty fuckin’ cool. Like the 1975 Women’s Strike in Iceland, when 90 percent of the women refused to go to work, cook, clean, or mind the children; and the men felt the impact of that intentional absence.
Now, the thing is DoA/DoP has always had it’s share of controversy and detractors. Apparently one of the debates that came up when I was there was about staff and faculty participation– some of the POC/LGBT staff and faculty wanted to participate– staff by not coming to their shift, and faculty by either cancelling classes, holding classes off-campus, or going off-syllabus for the days classroom discussion. Really cool and totally in the spirit, right? Except nope.
Apparently a bunch of whiny (white) assholes (students and staff) got butthurt at the idea of their needs not being served for one fuckin day and decided to complain on behalf of aaallllllllll the white ppl on campus about how unfair it was to pay for services and tuition and classes (on campus thankyouverymuchsir) etc etc and then not receive them for even one day. It was the height of injustice, the very height. To even imagine. Gasp. Horror. Oh, and also, apparently some (white) students felt it was unfair their minority classmates “got” to skip, and thought they should be penalized, and some (white) professors (like Weinstein, I’m guessing) agreed and would penalize students for missing class or failing to turn in work without a valid excuse.
Hearing about all this after the fact was one of those times I was like damn, I wish I was more of a regular/ involved campus student, bc that’s some bullshit.
Anyway, so when I first heard about Weinstein, I assumed his complaints were more of that vein: “Wah wah, minorities aren’t catering to me for a day, oppression, wah wah!” and my only real confusion was why the usual campus tension had blown up. And yeah, I read the linked Weinstein emails, but it still wasn’t initially clear to me.
I had this one image/ experience of DoA/DoP in my head, and nothing I was reading clarified what was different this year to precipitate all this, until this article in The Olympian: In wake of race protests at Evergreen, one lawmaker proposes to make it private.
So, basically, (I’m guessing bc all that white butthurt protest about any effective action by minorities to absent themselves from campus neutured the impact of the day) the organizer said (more or less), “Fine. You won’t let us leave campus on our terms for one day? Then how about this: you leave for the day. Go do your thing and let us have the campus to ourselves for a day without any racism or persecution fucking up our learning/ teaching/ working experiences.
One day for Evergreen POC/ LGBTQA workers, students, and teachers to spend an entire day without having to deal with the bullshit. The cafeteria staff employee who pretends they don’t notice the exaggerated, fake accent that one white student uses “as a joke” when he orders while his friends laugh? He gets a day off from that bullshit. The black teacher who’s constantly being challenged by white male students half her age who are convinced they know the material better than her, even though she’s got a PhD and a career of experience? She gets a day off from their mansplaining, racist bullshit. The LGBTQA student with a white classmate or professor who insists on misgendering them, or joking about their identity? One day off from it.
One day to move through a small slice of the world with freedom and peace. One day where, instead of having doors closed to them, they close the doors.
Beautiful. Beautiful and heartbreaking and challenging and not nearly fucking enough.
Unless, apparently, you are Weinstein and/ or Manweller (the GOP fucker who wants Evergreen to go private as punishment for practicing free speech on the public dollar– btw, anyone else seeing the hypocrisy exposed here? Aren’t conservatives the ones beating the drum on the ills of the public dollar and the value of privitization? Isn’t DeVos trying to privitize public education nationwide? But Manweller goes straight to privitizing as a proposed punishment? Huh.).
Look, I actually agree with Manweller’s statement that when a public university (or, really, any publicly funded institution) sends the message either directly or indirectly that someone is unwelcome based on skin color, a line has been crossed. It’s just that the asshole obviously doesn’t realize that is the fucking point of Day of Absence/ Day of Presence! Because the message has been and continues to be sent, overwhelmingly and disproptionately, that POC and LGBTQA students are unwelcome, and that crosses a fucking line!
Recognizing that discrimination, inequality, and disparate impact exist and acknowledging it does not translate to white people being persecuted, wtf.
Also, what the FUCK is up with with white mainstream conservative christians co-opting historical persecution against religious and/or racial minorities to justify their narrative? That’s so fucked up.
The Nazi’s were white christians who persecuted Jews, POC, Romany, LGBT, and the disabled, y’all, but Manweller actually fucking compares the POC, LGBTQA, and white ally protestors to Nazi Brownshirts. Like wtf, dude. Maybe don’t.