To the Editor:
“It’s no big deal.” That was my initial reaction to the recent spate of racial incidents at Oberlin. Of course, I loathe bigotry in all its forms. But, I thought to myself, the actions of one or two malicious cretins at Oberlin is hardly indicative of a systematic problem there, let alone at liberal arts colleges in general.
My initial reaction was not an uncommon one at Bowdoin. It was also deeply mistaken. This is a vital opportunity to confront the sinisterly subtle types of bigotry that are widespread at Bowdoin.
The average white guy at Bowdoin lives with other white guys, and most are comfortable letting loose chauvinist jokes in the privacy of their dorm rooms. When challenged, a typical response is, “Chill, bro. Whose feelings am I hurting? I don’t mean anything bad by it.” In other words: no big deal. “It’s okay to use the N-word when you’re singing along with a rap song,” a Bowdoin student once told me. So, no big deal. “That’s gay.” “That’s retarded.” Same answer: no big deal.
As Bowdoin students, we’re better than “no big deal.” Homophobic jokes don’t suddenly become acceptable when you’re hanging out with your straight friends. Anti-semitic slurs aren’t fair game when there are no Jews around. Oberlin is dealing with a couple isolated incidents of public bigotry. It’s time Bowdoin dealt with its systematic scourge of private, rationalized bigotry.
Jesse Gildesgame ’13