BY NINA LARBI ’22
Between studying for upcoming midterms and writing uninspiring papers, I spent my fall break watching MTV’s “Daria.” Set in a fictional suburb called Lawndale in the late ’90s, the show follows Daria, an impassive and critical teenage girl. Since the show’s end in 2002, the character has been turned into an icon of absolute apathy, which is odd because the series clearly attempted to do more than exhibit her emotionlessness. The series strikes a key balance between clever lampshading — simply commenting on issues and moving on — and actually addressing the problems it presents. Although Daria is presented as somewhat apathetic, with an “I’m surrounded by idiots” sort of mentality, she works to address the issues she sees in a constructive manner. If your animated hero does not recommend misanthropy, why should you?
Last weekend’s retreat into late ’90s MTV reminded me of this campus. I love my Western Massachusetts Marxist Lesbian Indoctrination Camp, but I feel there exists a pressure here for students to share the same thoughts. This campus veers towards an “I’m surrounded by idiots” mindset of its own, in that anyone who does not agree with a fictional “us” is completely shut down and shut out.
I would not describe Mount Holyoke’s call-out culture as completely toxic; I believe that those who do express prejudice should be criticized for it. However, I feel those who often call others out are simply trying to gain the moral high ground. We should bring attention to hateful speech because we want to render society more self-aware and more accepting, not to establish our own status as the most socially conscious of the group.
In addition, to eradicate bigotry, we should point out offenses in a constructive manner rather than ostracizing those who transgress. We have all been raised in a prejudiced society; it is not a surprise to learn that we have been affected by it.
Mount Holyoke’s idea of social awareness tends to be much less operative than it needs to; it does not suffice to know and say that racism is bad. Being socially conscious relies on action. Tweeting side eyes emojis at Trump’s Twitter rants or calling out another student in an unconstructive manner is useless. Call your senators, go to rallies, stand up for students of color facing discrimination on this campus. Your duty to society is not complete with a simple tweet. Call in, don’t call out.
I would like for white students specifically to realize that creating a contest out of being socially conscious is alienating and discourages collective growth. Do not treat your peers like imbeciles simply because they are becoming more aware of societal injustices. It is not a race; you do not win a prize. Being the most socially conscious the fastest is not “woke” because it does nothing to stop discrimination. What would be “woke” is for these students to stop using African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) and calling campus police on fellow peers’ black boyfriends.
As a campus we should not subscribe to such a narrow and inflexible philosophy of social justice. By doing so, we discourage a diversely-minded environment. We should not assume others are flat and insipid simply because they fail to agree with our perspectives. Instead of continuing to foster this harmful call-out culture, our campus should focus on positive propagation of social consciousness. Excluding those who do not fully follow this wrongly-defined idea of awareness restricts Mount Holyoke students from actually listening to each other and respecting diversity in thought, obviously within reasonable grounds. I recommend students take a lesson from the so-called queen of misanthropy herself and “stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless logic and experience prove you wrong.” We have the first part down; let’s work to make our social justice culture reflect the second part.