Most students by now have seen the microaggression posters that have gone up on campus recently. With a punchy design and an even punchier definition of bias-incidents (it’s hard not to memorize), these signs go a long way towards publicizing that we finally have a place to report discriminatory acts at the school. That place is speakup.williams.edu
Now if you’re anything like me you write to speakup a few times a day.
Just this morning I heard someone address what they took to be a group of cis-gendered males as ‘guys’. Little did they know a vertically challenged person who identifies as a Pacific-Islander female was hiding in the centre of the group, denied the privilege of visibility by a sea of white, arrogant torsos and chests.
If the student doing the “greeting” had an ounce of sensitivity they would have explored the group from top to bottom before gendering its composition and thus constructing a binary narrative of ‘guys’ versus ‘non-guys’: marginalizing the latter camp, and constructing a hierarchy where those un-persons on the bottom are literally not worthy of being recognized. As Judith Butler so eloquently puts it, “gender is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.”
My point exactly. “Hey, guys” doesn’t seem so friendly now, does it?
But returning to the incident, and the purpose of this article, where did my report actually go after I released it into the dark tubes of the inter-web? Who finds out about this tiny woman’s suffering, and the suffering of those like her, and what do they do about it?
After a little investigation the Alternative found out Williams has actually created a taskforce called the SpeakUp Squad to handle the bias-incident reports it receives daily. These are then aggregated the in a master-file that is regularly buried in time capsules around campus in case the white supremacists here finally take over everything and these important events are lost to herstory.
The Squad is composed of Michael Richter 14’, Natalie Weston 16’, and A’isah Daniels-Singh-Hokkaido-Li 15’.
Their office is located upstairs in the Davis Centre. A unique setup of monochromatic “office blocks” , which function as tables, desks, and chairs, ensure the space remains safe from all forms of decorative bias. But the progressive design, capped by a huge poster bearing the team’s trademark tetracuspid (the least phallic of all shapes), still does not protect against the tension. After five hours sat waiting for notifications with the team in front of a large desktop I am still sweating bullets, poised on the edge of my block. I am glad there were environmentally friendly napkins at hand or I would have torn my shirt to shreds fidgeting.
Then a ping!
“Heteronormative assumption! Paresky basement! Go! Go! Go!”
Daniels-Singh-Hokkaido-Li gives the order, or “mandatory suggestion” in the Squad’s speak, and in a few seconds flat the entire team is racing down the stairs, with me struggling to keep up. Fortunately the school permits a minivan to be left idling outside at all hours of the day for cases just like this, and we are soon screeching up on Park Street.
We find the victim still sitting on the couches downstairs, eating a Ruben. The perpetrator has left the scene, but is quickly found in the men’s bathroom: a highly problematic decision in itself. If the perpetrator thought the morally iffy conventions of gendered bathroom space could protect him he was in for a rude surprise when the Squad brought the discourse into his stall with an impressive group kick.
At this point I was told to leave. All information gathering sessions are kept strictly private. I did notice that the perpetrator left with a few marks on his face that looked very similar to the shape of a walky-talk that all squad members carry. Apparently he was so upset after recognizing his biases that he took one of the receivers and bashed his own face with it. As if that helps the victim! But then that’s racist logic for you.
Fortunately the entire issue was resolved with an official, written apology and two weeks sensitivity training by mandatory suggestion.
If you’re asking this reporter, anyone who doubts the speakup system’s efficiency has clearly never seen it in action.
So speak up Williams, and remember to stay open-minded!