Opinion: Everyone deserves to fight for a safe space

Samantha Karam

This year, three days before Halloween, Yale University’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent out an email encouraging students to think about how costumes like Native American headdresses, turbans and blackface may be offensive.

According to a CNN article, Erika Christakis, a Yale professor, responded to the email by writing a public letter saying “Nicholas (her husband and fellow Yale professor) says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

Erika and Nicholas Christakis are white.

Yale students of color responded to the letter with on-campus protests that are still happening. They don’t feel supported or think campus is an equally safe place for them as it is for other students. A video of one protester yelling in Nicholas Christakis’ face has gone viral.

Many race-related protests have been taking place lately and generally, people promptly label these protestors as overly sensitive.

Though protest methods are loud and abrupt, I think critics are too quick to judge these Yale students.

Christakis said in her letter that people should honestly communicate with one another. The students are doing just that by expressing their offense.

I don’t choose to stand outside with these protestors because I’m not offended the way they are. However, I think as a whole, we completely disregard the fact that sometimes our actions offend others.

It’s fun to play dress up once a year, but it’s almost mid-November and Yale students are still voicing their concerns with Christakis’ letter. They’re passionate about this and who says they need to stop? That letter wasn’t necessary.

It’s important to consider how other people perceive our actions. We shouldn’t let others dictate us. But when we look outside our own perspectives, we gain insight.

You don’t have to participate in the rallies of race-related protesters. It’s all about how you look at it. The Yale situation changes entirely when you see these protestors as “hurting” rather than “insensitive.”

These students don’t feel safe and that’s the bottom line. Protesters may yell, curse and wave signs, but they’re trying to express how frustrated they are.

Any student can relate to how stressful college is. These Ivy League students have all that stress in addition to feeling unsafe.

You don’t have to join them, but consider why they’re doing it. They’re being honest with everyone and most people shove them off as ridiculous.

Sally Kohn, an activist and columnist, had a great response to the Yale protests.

“Take a moment to consider that the feelings and concerns of Yale’s students of color are as valid as those of its white professors — and that if these students are yelling, it’s because they have something important to say. Instead of judging, let’s try listening,” she said.

Samantha Karam is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].