‘Not there yet’

This past weekend there was a serious homophobic incident on campus and we all need to know about it. Three of my friends were walking past Mission last Friday night on the Dennett side when one or more first-year males stuck their heads out of a dorm room window and called over to them. They screamed, “Hey you! Faggot!” When my friends did not respond, the freshmen kept badgering them, continuing to call them “faggots” until they finally walked away.

When I first got to Williams I felt out of place, like I had landed here by accident from some other universe. I felt lonely in a place where there were so few people who dressed like me, talked like me and understood where I came from. Instead of choosing to leave, though, I decided to stay and devote my time here to improving Williams as best I could. I experienced multiple student uprisings, from Stand With Us to the Hardy House sit-in, and I was inspired by my peers’ refusal to let the problems that affect our community go unnoticed. Those movements made me feel like there was, in fact, a place for me at this school.
Their fervor inspired me to work harder, to engage people in the important conversations about racism, sexism and homophobia on this campus. Their fervor inspired me to speak on behalf of the students whose voices aren’t always heard at this College: Those who feel removed by what feels like a dominant culture at Williams.

By the end of my four-year stint at Williams I was beginning to think we had done something, that something had changed. After months of protests, sit-in after sit-in, thousands of meetings, meals, conversations and strategy sessions, I actually believed that some of the close-mindedness and ignorance that seeps into this campus and rears its ugly head often on the weekends had begun to dissipate.
Then, just a few weeks before my graduation, this happens, and I wonder how long we will have to keep fighting to get Williams to realize that there are serious problems here that need to be addressed. The fact that some students, especially first-years, think it is okay to stick their heads out of a window and scream the word “faggot” into the night is okay, is so terribly wrong. What kind of school are we?
What it shows is that we are not educating ourselves enough. We come to College to learn and grow and part of that learning and growing is being pushed to reevaluate one’s beliefs and identity. The fact that people are still using homophobic slurs means that someone is not being educated properly. While this incident is an issue, things like this happen more often than you might think. The fact that I could walk into a party in the Sushi Thai apartments a few weeks ago and a fellow senior could call his friend a “fag” repeatedly in the hallway means that we are not educating ourselves properly. This senior will go into the real world, after four years of living in a diverse and intellectual community, and still think that calling someone a “fag” is ok. What a shame.

Williams, we need to start standing up against homophobic language. Captains of teams need to call people out when they hear this stuff come out of their peers’ mouths. Why? Because unlike other slurs and hateful language, you don’t always know who in the room is being hurt. JAs need to teach their freshmen that saying “faggot” is wrong, no matter what the context, the company or the alcohol content in one’s body. Being drunk is not an excuse. It is wrong now and always.
No one, not one student, should graduate from this college without knowing which words are inappropriate and what kind of behavior is disparaging to certain groups of people. If they don’t know this, we have all failed in some way. And maybe, sometime in the future, we can hope that graduates of this college won’t just watch their language but stand up for others when they hear someone else calling someone a “faggot.” What kind of college would that make us? The kind that trains its students not just to be balanced, organized and critical thinkers, but good citizens, enlightened, educated, open-minded advocates that fight hatred and ignorance. Now, that is a Williams that deserves a ranking of number one. But obviously we’re not there yet.

Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 is a political science major from Los Angeles, Calif. He lives in Perry.

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