Guys: I’m super excited to tell you that there’s a whole group of people, that you can– no scratch that. There’s a whole group of people that you should hate, solely based on something they can’t change. Not a religion or something that esoteric, no this is something purely physical that they can do nothing about. And it’s totally okay, because we’ve all been them at one point, no matter if you’re Black, Asian, man, woman, or a wonderful and weird combination of some or all of those things, and more.
I’m just going to say it. I fucking hate young people.
It seems like at almost everything I’ve gotten tight about lately, especially my indefatigable irritation with policing language; there’s a young person at the wheel of the vehicle leading the charge, dourly swerving from topic-to-topic, incensed about something they have no practical experience with. I don’t want to overgeneralize here, but I’m going to. And I want to, despite what I may have just said in way of a half-assed pre-apology.
So, anyway: think about how you were as a young person. Not like a baby, unless you were kind of a sanctimonious, know-it-all baby.
Let me tell you about me as an early twenty-something. I was FUCKING OBNOXIOUS. Ask anyone. Some of you already know that, and for those of you that had to suffer through my endless monologues about how I thought I could be a “modern-day Huey Newton, or probably more like a Bobby Seale, really,” or how I scored a really rare copy of Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (neglecting to also mention the fact that I only read about thirty pages of it, and thought it sucked,) or how I didn’t watch movies, I watched films; despite the fact that my favorite movie until I was about thirty featured Eric Roberts as a single dad/auto worker/tae kwon do master–to you, I’m truly sorry.
Point is, I knew fuck all when I was a young man. Really, I don’t know a ton more now, but at the very least I’m cognizant of that and try to shut the fuck up about it. But, twenty-something me? He knew ev-er-y goddamned thing, including how to fix a tax-code that he never read, and all of society’s ills in general.
And I bet that I’m not the only one. I’m sure a lot of you were the same kind of dickhead. I know some of you are still the same kind of dickhead. I realize I’m taking the long way around, but here’s why I took you on that ride:
I wish I understood Photoshop well enough to make that up. To help prove it to you, I’ve pulled a quote from the same article that I couldn’t have possibly written without rolling my eyes so hard that I detached my brain stem.
“Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of [the class] Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom,” wrote the students, who are members of Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. “These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.”
Now, Columbia is a school for smart kids. Kids that are way, way smarter than I am. It’s also an Ivy League school, which as much as they’d deny it, are schools for rich kids. Dr. Robin J Hayes wrote a great article for The Atlantic in 2014 about the lack of economic diversity at her alma mater, Yale, which you can and should read here. I realize that Yale and Columbia aren’t the same school, but they’re definitely comparable enough for our purposes. Let’s parse the Columbia Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board’s (we’re gonna call them the CMAAB. Jesus.) quote from Time , using Dr Hayes’ article, and a little common sense.
CMAAB. Jesus: “These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.”
Dr. Hayes: 69 percent of this year’s freshmen are from families with annual incomes of over $120,000. However, the median U.S. household income is $52,700. Rather sizable groups of Americans who are both well below the median and experiencing income declines include people who did not graduate from college and Southerners. Given that elite universities increasingly view themselves as global institutions, it is also worth mentioning that the international median household income is $10,000.
Roll that around for a second. Since Columbia and Yale are fairly comparable institutions, we can assume that somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy-percent of these students’ families are at least twice as wealthy as the median American family. That statistic also doesn’t include students whose families make less than 120k a year, but still are not what would be considered low income. According to Forbes, fifty-eight percent of Columbia students are receiving financial aid. Sounds like there might be more low-income kids here than we thought, right? Well, let’s see what the university has to say about financial aid:
“The median income of families receiving Columbia Grant is $98,814, but many families who earn as much as $200,000 a year can qualify for financial aid.”
Well, shit. Not only is the median income of families receiving aid almost double the median American income, but families making four fucking times the median can qualify. So what’s the point? There’s probably not enough poor kids at Columbia to be statistically significant. And the ones that are, might not give a shit about Greek myth trigger warnings. I wonder if anyone asked them?
CMAAB. Jesus: These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression.
Not to be a dickhead, but doesn’t that describe, like, everything anyone has ever seen or read? Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Or Star Wars? Or Charlotte’s Web? Or Native Son? Or any per mutation of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Or Ramona and Beezus?
Especially Ramona and Beezus.
CMAAB. Jesus: difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color.
So, Greek and Roman epics are mostly populated by Greek and Roman characters. Most cultures’ writings are reflective of their population. Do we need a warning for that? Isn’t that sort of backhandedly bigoted? Warning: this piece of literature contains characters of a different background than you. For the record, I’m half-Hispanic and Half-white. I’m pretty used to most media not reflecting me, it’s not a big deal. If I’m upset about it, I can make my own media. A lot of people are doing it. Also, if you’re reading a poem written by an Italian eight years before the common era, and you’re surprised and bothered there’s not a lot of diversity within; you’re probably too dumb to go to Columbia. Also, this again smacks of people inadvertently creating a caste system by “protecting” the people that they feel-but-don’t-say are less than them. That’s patronizing, and annoying. So stop.
But, there is one thing worth not snarkily dismissing in the CMAAB. Jesus’ statement: the word “survivors.”
And, that’s where we’ll pick up next week, talking about the history of the term “trigger warning,” and how it’s come to where it is now.
Next time, baby.