Censorship and the Struggle to Tell the Stories of Marginalized Individuals

I have been silent for a long time. I haven't written that much. I am afraid that my writings or my perspectives might prevent me from achieving my dream. I realize that my works and writings have been a fight between self-liberation and opportunity. As a result, I censor myself by not writing at all. 

I often think that maybe this is not the time to make a difference. Maybe this is the time that I should be quiet, take advantage of the institution that I am “lucky” enough to be a part of. Maybe this is the time that I should get used to navigating institutions, and once I graduate and become successful, I can start my own political activism. Self-liberation and opportunity, personal politics and mainstream politics, and equality and equity: I question these dichotomies all the time. Which one am I willing to sacrifice? Which one's more important to me? 

As a writer, I am afraid of censorship, the C-word. It is no longer about censoring sensitive subjects. It is the struggle of telling the story in my own voice. On one occasion, I wrote an article about Ms. Pebbles, a lady who used to work at Union. I included the conversation we had:

Ms. Pebbles: Win-Win, I like your eyeshadow. Where did you get it? Dollar Tree? (Then she busted into laughter). 

 Me: No, (with sassiness) you shop at Dollar Tree. It's from ColourPop. 

That part was never published because a white woman read my article and found it offensive. Maybe the fact that Pebbles and I, as two women of color, make fun of each other about shopping at Dollar Tree is inappropriate. I understand her good intention because she doesn't want Her Campus to perpetuate the stereotype that women of color shop at Dollar Tree. She doesn't want others to feel bad for shopping at Dollar Tree. Because people only want to see a part of all black women; the part that's being “Black Girl Magic." They only want to see a part of all Asian women; the part that's intellectual, hardworking, and elegant. They prefer the ideal women of color who make it to the top corporations without complaining about their struggles. In reality, how many of us can make it there without making a tremendous amount of sacrifices? 

Personally, I would not have made it here without my mom working ten hours a day at a nail shop. Indeed, you should be skeptical about the stories that I tell. Because as someone who has the privileges to pursue a good education at Davidson, as someone who doesn't have to worry about the next meal on the table, and as someone who has been assimilated, the experiences, the struggles, and the stories that I tell are only a part of the picture. Overall, censoring black content, of people of color’s content, or of marginalized individuals’ content is equivalent to eliminating the voices of the voiceless. It’s like telling me:

"We want to you to tell your story, however, just tell the good; we don’t want the bad. We want you to tell your stories in black and white: the white part is for us, and as for the dark part, you can keep it to yourself."

Recently, Davidson College launched Lula Bell, a new resource center for students named in honor of Lula Bell Houston, a 60-year employee at the laundry center. On the school website, Lula Bell was described as always giving students a warm smile and a tender attitude. However, the school seems to forget to mention the fact that Lula Bell, as a black woman who lived in the 1960s, was subject to racial and economic discrimination. It seems to forget to mention the struggles of Lula Bell Houston as a black woman who worked at the predominantly white male institution in the South. Women were not allowed to attend Davidson College until 1972. Again, there is nothing wrong with mentioning the kindness that Houston gave to students. However, it is not a complete picture of her story. Her struggles, her difficulties, and her overcoming hardships should also be mentioned. 

I am not here to scrutinize any individuals because individuals are often puppets of the institution.I’m here to scrutinize the institution that has romanticized the struggles of marginalized individuals in order to justify what it has done in the past. In order to achieve a more equitable society, individuals must be confrontational and willing to challenge the unequal power relations between individuals.  

Recently, I complained to one of my dearest friends who is white that I think I come off to people as too strong and too vocal. She told me: “I don’t think you come off as bashing all white people.” No, I don’t. Just because I stand against the system of white supremacy doesn’t mean that I hate all white people. Indeed, my white friends and I are on the same page: we’re both fighting against the system of white supremacy. We are both anti-White supremacist. Just because I stand against the patriarchy doesn't mean that I hate all men. For all of the men out there who believe that women should have the same rights as men, we are on the same page: we are both feminists. What is the difference? 

I wrote this article because the personal is political (Carol Hanisch) and the personal politics of marginalized individuals shouldn't be censored. 


If you are interested in writing an article for Her Campus Davidson, contact us at [email protected] or come to our weekly meeting Mondays at 8 p.m. in Chambers 1003.