I am an intolerant, ignorant, sexist, classist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, heteronormative, elitist bigot, and so are you.

In high school I used gay slurs as punchlines. My first semester here, I thought feminists were dumb. Last week, a girl in my improv group pointed out that my attempt at a tactful joke about race was at the expense of black people—a shock to me after the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about race these last few months.

Every day I commit microagressions, reinforce the patriarchy and flaunt my privilege, and I don’t even realize it. I just don’t really understand this stuff. Despite the countless hours I’ve spent reading, studying and conversing, I’m not even close.

I still catch myself making assumptions about gay people, Asian people, religious people. It freaks me out and I have to reject the impulse to pretend it didn’t happen or to convince myself it was OK.

I’m writing this column because I think most of you feel the way I do. The only way we can move forward is if we confront ourselves as we are. We need to accept our shortcomings by recognizing that we all have them. We must ask others to tell us when we make mistakes and find community in bettering ourselves.

I expect to get things wrong here, and I want you to tell me when you think I do. I want to be excited to hear why I’m wrong. I want you to write a letter to the editor and be excited for the next week’s Orient when someone tells you why they think you’re wrong. I want us all to enter an endless cycle of wrongness until everyone is so wrong all the time that we stop being afraid of it.

This column is not a veiled commentary on a specific issue. It is about why I believe conversation at Bowdoin is breaking down—why we have become awkward, indirect, strained and tired when we talk about injustice. We can only change that if we admit that we don’t know the right answer.

What if having an opinion about race was exciting?

What if I didn’t look at my plate to hide my facial expression when someone brought up Palestine? What if I wasn’t afraid of being labeled a racist bigot or a social justice warrior?
I’m tired of us looking at each other in silence, of letting the conviction that nobody could understand my opinions grow into resentment and fear. I’m tired of pretending that hiding our feelings is progress.

I want Bowdoin to be a haven. I want everyone to feel safe here. I want to know that even if intolerance and hatred will always be with us, they can be rendered powerless. Maybe it’s impossible, but I believe our little 1,800 student Brunswick bubble is one of the only places that even has a chance.

And if that’s true, together we have to try.

James Jelin is a member of the Class of 2016.