Predominantly white institutions often present themselves as progressive safe spaces to stakeholders and stockholders. Meanwhile, they’re sucking the life out of the activists who take on the challenge of actually making this progressive “brand” a reality. Hofstra University is no exception.
I’ve quickly learned in my time here that being invited to the function does not necessarily mean you have a seat at the table. More times than not it means you are on the menu.
So I’ve promised myself that I am no longer performing free emotional labor for Hofstra and I am no longer expecting those who expect me this labor from me to be agents of change.
For the final time, I am recounting the highlights of my first and second year at Hofstra that labor has been expected of me without compensation or signal that change will follow.
I declared journalism as my major. In a conversation about media representation, a professor told the class that there was too much queer talent on television and cracked a joke about how many letters are in the acronym LGBTQIA. On a separate occasion this professor boldly and without fear of consequence used the word Negro in reference to African-Americans. Given that you can count on one hand the number of African-American/black faculty in the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, you can guess that this was indeed a non-black professor.
Another professor shot microaggressions at me like darts. Whenever the microaggressions got boring, he’d engage in full-fledged humiliation. I would regularly watch him salivate over exchanges between myself and my white counterparts as I attempted to humanize myself to them.
As the election grieving began, I’d become aware of just how unaware marginalized white people were of their whiteness.
After the inauguration, I’d become aware of just how much of a joke the queer and/or trans person of color experience was to self-titled activists around me. I’d learned that black, queer feminist angst is only praised by “allied” communities when the target is a common aggressor, the cis-hetero patriarchy. That angst is labeled divisive and as betrayal when the target is the agents of colonial violence in queer and trans spaces.
Needless to say, I burnt out very quickly my second semester here.
I’m currently taking Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Racism. At this point in the semester I’ve trained myself out of experiencing shock whenever anti-black sentiment is shared, but I haven’t figured out how to do that with transphobia and homophobia.
Most recently, a white cisgender heterosexual man threw a temper tantrum towards the end of class in the middle of a discussion about trans* folx and our right to take up space.
He screamed for several minutes that there are only two genders, man and woman, and that he had better never see anyone of the “opposite gender” in his bathrooms. After evaluating the shock on his classmates’ faces he continued on by suggesting that his opinion was shared by millions of Americans.
I don’t quite remember before or after. All I really think about now is that the first few spaces I shared my gender identity were academic settings in which I was advocating for my life.
The number of occasions I have outed myself and/or acknowledged my identities and then instinctively humanized myself to my counterparts in alleged safe spaces in response to abuse like this, only testifies to the colonial violence committed at large at Hofstra University.
With that, if you’d like elaboration on any of these experiences in the future, bookings are available through email@example.com. Cash and/or caffeine are my preferred methods of compensation.
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