Reflections from the Inside
This sounds abstract, but it’s not. This trauma is visceral, and it manifest in daily pain, like so much crystal-cold water drowning us slowly but surely. This is what we want to focus on: Pain, real pain—the real pain of being of color in this country. To bring it even more down to earth: What we’re talking about is mental health, the mental health for which this university purports to be on a crusade. But what it, and this world, fails to understand is that for people of color, mental (un)health is synonymous with racial trauma. And the two of us, as student activists, have a particular relationship with this mental (un)health.
Salma: As the students who were organizing the counter-rally, we were catapulted into a national debate about freedom of speech on college campuses. The debate has been framed as a binary: You either defend freedom of speech or attack it. You either sit back and watch silently, complacent as Murray is invited to campus or you’re childish, unwilling to listen to differing opinions, labeled as unreasonable. Through our response to Murray’s campus invitation, we attempted to introduce more nuance into the conversation and to challenge that binary which has been eternally rigged against us.
At this point in the summer, this answer was not far from the truth. I did not experience crippling and debilitating rage often. If cool-headedness was the best way to approach rationality and productivity, then cool-headed is what I would strive to be.
Nicholas: I remember having similar conversations, especially in the context of productivity. We live in a world where anger is devalued, because it isn’t productive—or at least that’s what we’re told. This is particularly true for black rage. In the face of Ku Klux Klan, Donald Trump, and that one low-key white nationalist in your section (we all know they exist), we’re expected to not be angry, and we convince ourselves that we are, in fact, not angry. We’re particularly discouraged from introducing anger into our emancipatory work, public service, and attempts to dismantle structures of white supremacy.
S: When I came back to campus sophomore year, I was able to examine my environment in the absence of those rose-tinted glasses that are handed to you at the beginning of your first year. I looked around and saw all of the ways that students of color are expected to break their backs and take time out of their day for the benefit of their white peers. And I felt enraged. I felt like throwing those rose-tinted glasses onto the ground, putting on hefty combat boots, and stomping until the glasses were nothing but an indiscernible pile of glass and metal on my dorm room floor.