Standing up and speaking out

So some lovely frosh in an entry that shall not be named recently put me down. They said something that was truly hurtful to me and the Williams identity that I have spent so much time creating. But I attempted to brush it off, knowing that they are scared freshmen. They’re just trying to find their footing on this campus – and in the true nature of the Williams drive, they want what they view as “success” and they want it now. To do that, they chose to put others down. When they were finally called out, they of course apologized, as though that would be enough to fix my hurt feelings. But whatever, I can get over those.

What was really annoying was the number of witnesses who turned a blind eye to the hurtful behavior.

It wouldn’t have hit home so much if I didn’t remember being in that position myself. My entry, back in 2009-10 (yeah, you did the math right, I should have graduated already), and I didn’t really get along, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. I vividly remember the school group that my entry picked on, and I’m not proud of it. In the beginning of the school year, maybe even right after the jamboree, they started with little jabs about something that people worked hard for, something people were proud of and something that I personally had thought was pretty cool, before peer pressure to dislike it popped up. I eventually became friends with some people involved because they were much classier individuals than the people I was living near – and even if you ignore words like “classy,” they were just more my type of people. I was never in with the cool kids in high school, so I don’t know why I tried to be in college. It just wasn’t meant to be.

But I’ve felt guilty about going with that peer pressure for years now. It was brief; I may not even have said anything negative – I don’t remember my own words on the subject. But just knowing that I looked down on them, however short a period of time it lasted, makes me feel uncomfortable. I was no better than they were, so why would I go along with it? Why didn’t I speak up?

But even if you aren’t like me and never get put in a position where your words become regrets, who would you rather be if a story like this comes out in a few years: the jerks who tormented other people? The bystander who said nothing? Or the one who stood up against people who look down on others? Do you want to be someone others make fun of? If we don’t stop the culture, it will still be seen as okay to act like middle schoolers and make fun of other people – and we’ll all lose because at some point or another, we’ll all be the butt of someone else’s joke.

Even I, in writing about these events, had to change some phrasing about my entrymates; despite the fact that we weren’t friends and I really despised one or two or 10 of them, there’s no need to use name-calling or to hurt others. I just wish that I had stood up to them back then. I wish that I could look back on what happened and respect the stance I took. It’s hard to stand up to people, especially people you’ve just met or people who you want to like you, but you should at least try when the time is right.

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Albus Dumbledore said, “there are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” These are wise words.

Phoebe Gould ’14 is an economics major from Trenton, N.J. She lives in Hubbell.

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