What’s Wrong with Race?

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Ever since the election, the topic of race relations in the United States has been wrenched to the forefront of American politics. Van Jones notably called the election results a “white-lash” against a black president on Election night while he was on CNN. My question is, how long were we all going to wait until we discussed racism and race relations in this country?

Racism did not start yesterday. It did not start with Donald Trump announcing his terrifying campaign to become President of the United States. It didn’t start in the aftermath of 9/11. Racism and its subsequent institutional effects have been happening for CENTURIES, and not just in the United States, but wherever colonialism has set foot. Countries were built on the oppression of minority peoples, particularly of Black and Native American people in the United States. Basically, racism has seeped into our governmental, political, economic, and social structures ever since people decided it was okay to classify someone’s worth based on the color of their skin for their own benefit.

So, now that I’ve clarified that racism has existed for a very long time, let me ask the golden question: Why do people find it so difficult to discuss race?

In my personal experience, I find that there is a general discomfort when the topic of race is brought up. People tense up, start looking nervously down at their fingers or say some form of “well, it’s a lot better now than it was in the 60s” or “well, I don’t see color.” Refusing to acknowledge the deep seeded racism in the institutions of our country is equivalent to being a bystander to someone being bullied. By refusing to “see color,” one chooses to ignore the systematic racism and discriminations that minorities face every day. By keeping silent, you are allowing racism to happen and that shows your privilege. You are able to ignore the narratives of race and racism since their consequences will never affect you.    

Friendly note: If you find yourself starting a sentence with the phrase “I’m not racist,” I automatically assume that I’ll be hearing some sort of ignorantly racist comment.  

Just because you don’t talk about or “see” racism doesn’t mean it still doesn’t exist. Racism, segregation, and institutional discrimination did not end with the emancipation of black slaves or Jim Crow. Racism is not limited to the horrific lynchings of Black Americans. It also includes the consistent denial of Black and Native Americans of their basic human rights. Look at what’s happening at Standing Rock. The Flint Water Crisis. The videos of police brutality against minorities that I see throughout my newsfeed. All of these incidents, and many more, have occurred all without justice. These are serious issues that disproportionately affect racial minorities and low income families. Do we really have to debate about the basic safety of minorities, whether it’s access to clean water or interacting with institutions that are technically supposed to protect us and give us justice? Isn’t it their basic human right?

I know talking about race is uncomfortable. I know it’s easy to believe the narrative that “these occurrences happen only once in awhile.” It’s easy to get caught up in your own bubble, whatever your political identification is. It happens to me, too. However, racism still exists everywhere and we can not afford to deny that anymore. By ignoring the issues of race relations in our country, we are allowing these tensions to build up. So I ask you, white people, to take a good look at yourselves and stop blaming minorities for the negative experiences they’ve had. They weren’t the ones to create the “us vs. them” narrativewhite people did.


Ilina Krishen

University of Michigan, Class of 2019

B.A. History


Art by Amanda Donovan, Graphic Designer, What the F Magazine

MY COSTUME IS NOT AN INVITATION

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Ever since I was in eighth grade, I told myself that during my freshmen year of college I would finally wear the costume of my dreams. I was an emo kid back in the day, and fell in love with the band Blink-182. Had all their albums, saw them live, had signed merch, and even met one of the band members. I’d always wanted to dress up as the girl on one of their hit albums, Enema of the State. But the model was a literal porn star, and the cheap nurse costume she wore wasn’t exactly age appropriate, so I promised myself that freshman year of college I’d let myself go for it.

And now I’m finally in college, and it’s Halloween season. The time finally came, and all month I’ve been prepping for this costume: looking for the perfect nurse outfit, getting the makeup look down, even hand-making the patch on her dress. I was pumped. Then the Friday before Halloween I put it all on and did my makeup and hair just right, which took a total of over two hours. I looked perfect, just like the album cover. After a quick photoshoot, I posted my look on twitter next to the picture of the album cover, and Blink-182 immediately retweeted it, and the post blew up. Suddenly I had hundreds of retweets and thousands of favorites. I went out to the club feeling confident and proud.

Little did I know wearing a sexually liberating costume would somehow be seen as an invitation for everyone to just complete disrespect everything about me, from my body to my sexuality to my taste.

Of course on my way to the club guys were just completely taken aback by my chest. One pedicab driver asked if I needed a ride, then ogled at my tits and said “Uhhh… and you’re really pretty… by the way,” but I thought all of that was just kind of funny and expected. I got a kick out of it. I’m a hot chick in a ridiculous costume that barely even counts as clothes at this point.

Then I looked back on my twitter. I guess when something on the internet gets popular, people expect their offensive comments go unnoticed. To my surprise, all of my haters were women, which made me really sad. They were slut-shaming me, telling me I looked like a drug addict or a cheap knock-off. Of course being the confident feminist I am, I replied with witty remarks saying I’m so sorry they’re jealous I’m hot and confident. But it makes me really frustrated that people assume because someone is on the internet, they can bully that person. And the fact that it was all women just made me sad that there are so many people who hold such internalized misogyny.

But it wasn’t just people online who thought my costume was an open invitation to disrespect me. One guy outside the club asked if I REALLY, ACTUALLY listened to Blink-182, or if I was just wearing the costume for attention. Yes, random stranger, I spent years preparing this costume, spending plenty of time and money, just to suck some emo dick. You’re a genius. Just because a woman is wearing a revealing costume, does not mean she is looking for attention from men, believe it or not.

Then I get into the club–keep in mind it’s a gay bar–so I’m clearly not trying to get with any guys here. I’m dancing, having a good time with some friends, and suddenly there’s someone on my ass. I can’t even see his face, but he’s big and towering over me. He’s grabbing my neck and panting in my ear. I don’t even know his name, or what he looks like. But I let it happen for a bit, just dance a bit. Then he turns me around and tries to make out with me. I say no, shake my head, so he turns me around again. He’s grabbing not only my ass, but my crotch at this point. My dress has rode up past my butt. I’m clearly uncomfortable. He turns me around again to try and make out and I tell him to stop. He’s mad and starts to try and argue with me. I tell him no and begin to leave the dance floor. But this guy clearly doesn’t have any respect for me or my body, so he grabs my asscheeks as I’m walking away, after I made it very clear I don’t want him touching me.

It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I’m a “slut” who has tons of sex or not. It doesn’t matter the holiday. It doesn’t matter my age. It doesn’t matter. MY BODY IS NOT AN INVITATION. MY OUTFIT IS NOT AN INVITATION. MY COSTUME IS NOT AN INVITATION. You are not allowed to be a jerk to me online because of my appearance. You are not allowed to accuse me of being a fake because of my appearance. You are not allowed to grope me and objectify me because of my appearance.

Have a fun Halloween weekend, and remember, no matter what you wear, you deserve to feel safe, have fun, and get respect.


Ariel Hope

University of Michigan

LSA Residential College