I’m in a Dungeons & Dragons group on campus—specifically, a mostly PoC D&D group. I don’t get to join our sessions as often as I’d like, but the times that I do have with this group are ones that I value with all my heart. My friends Chloe, Elise, Robyn-Phaylen, Sam, and Vahni form Gauntlit with guidance from our wonderful Dungeon Master, Juniper Cruz. The world Juniper has created for us is one in which we are allowed to beat the forces that would wish to oppress us in the real world. My time with my party helps me feel safe. It helps me heal.
It is everything Kenyon has not been recently.
I have spent the last week grappling with the fact that many Kenyon students are not truly interested in coming to terms with their own hypocrisies. I recognize why people enjoy calling Kenyon a liberal bubble in our seclusion from the more conservative surrounding areas. Still, recently, I’ve become more and more angered by the complacency that this allows within Kenyon students. Kenyon, as a liberal bubble, doesn’t allow for marginalized students to give constructive commentary on the everyday happenings of this college.
Here are the facts—and only the facts that I am presently aware of, which probably don’t take into account many other experiences from marginalized people on this campus: we exist on a campus in which my friends have still been called sp*cs and ch*nks. We exist on a campus where incredibly racially insensitive plays can be written by our professors—and the professor has the gall to not show up to a panel that discussions the implications of what she wrote. On our campus, professors can declare our denouncement of racist stereotypes as “the death of liberal arts.” We exist on a campus in which some men at our school can be overheard saying, “No, it’s racist, but to be honest I don’t really give a sh*t.” We exist on a campus in which our leaders cannot be confronted about their white fragility without attempting to tear down a woman of color by misquoting her to an entire academic department. We exist on a campus in which I can write about class divides and one of the richest girls I know will talk to me about understanding my struggle. On our campus, a privileged woman can be confronted about degrading comments she made about another marginalized woman and has the audacity not to be exposed because she has “social clout.” These are not even stories I have dug up from the past; these are all things that have happened within the last few weeks at Kenyon.
We exist on a campus in which this all causes temporary outrage, only to fizzle out and become forgotten. This happens for two reasons: the marginalized people on this campus—people of color, people with disabilities, mentally ill people, poor people, queer people, etc.—grow tired of constantly having to educate you. (The internet exists. Please, help yourself.) The other can only be narrowed down to complacency. Because surely, these hateful comments are minority opinions on this campus, right?
Except they’re not. And by subscribing to the idea of Kenyon as a quaint liberal bubble, we sometimes involuntarily silence people from marginalized communities. It is easy to say, don’t worry, most people on this campus don’t think this way about your identity when you are not directly threatened by the ideas people hold (and at times won’t admit to).
I’m ecstatic at the anger I saw in response to Professor MacLeod’s play. I love that people are going to the Juniper-led Snowden Whiteness Group. I feel so lucky to have Peter Oduwole on campus to support the mental health of marginalized students and start up the Racial Trauma group. But we have to realize that this is not enough. You could argue that things are probably worse in the “real” world, but I would counter that by saying that the students around you deserve to feel safe and welcomed on this campus. They deserve more than your white fragility. They deserve more than your white feminism. They deserve more than your performative activism and allyship.
Make no mistake: I need my marginalized friends and my wonderful D&D party. I need them just be able to breathe on this campus sometimes. My friends and I often aren’t afforded the opportunity to truly move on; instead, these instances hang like weights around our necks. We take victories where we can. If that means destroying a bunch of straight villains in our D&D campaign? Great. If it means standing up to people who would insist we pretend there isn’t a large problem of hypocrisy on this campus? Even better.