the words we use and how we use them
Language is everything.
It is how we comprehend concepts. It is how we communicate. It is a core part of society and its institutions. And these days, it seems that the words we use and how we use them have become more important than ever.
At NYU, students often feel that they are limited in vocabulary and thus become limited in voice. Students with more controversial opinions — usually the conservative ones — do not find it safe to express themselves in what they would deem a liberal bubble. Even those with less controversial opinions do not feel that their voices matter, primarily because they feel that their voices get lost in an echochamber.
LOADED seeks to open a discussion about politically charged words — in other words, loaded language — and what they mean. It is an opportunity to reflect on what words such as safe spaces and diversity mean — to both the individual and the community.
– Veronica Liow, Assistant Managing Editor
By Kaitlyn Wang, Editor-at-Large
If you’ve heard any of the -isms used lately, you’ve probably heard the word “intersectional” attached to them. Certainly you’ve heard the word come out of the mouths of the Parkland shooting survivors, who acknowledge that they have privilege in the gun control debate, that there is a need for more representation and diversity in voices — Delaney Tarr and Sarah Chadwick, for one, spoke thoroughly about it at a Glamour panel. But what does it all mean?
Intersectionality is a term first coined in 1989 by University of California, Los Angeles Law professor Kimberle Crenshaw in a paper that asserted that anti-discrimination doctrine, feminist theories and anti-racist politics were ineffective for black women because of a lack of intersectionality — a lack of understanding that black women were affected by both racism and sexism. These three things only focused on one aspect at a time, and inequalities continue because nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything overlaps and yes, intersects, and these interactions matter.
Merriam-Webster defines intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” Originally used to address the overlapping of sexism and racism — how the experiences of a black woman, for example, has both similarities and differences from those of a white woman and also from those of a black man — nowadays, the circle of -isms the term can apply to ranges from class to sexuality.
Intersectionality has become a crucial part of how we understand discrimination today. We use it to describe the necessity to widen the lens and understand that experiences do not exist in a single sphere. Those who claim, for example, that white feminism is ineffective demand a more intersectional feminism — one that understands that not all women experience sexism to the same severity. Today’s intersectionality wants to bring more people into the fold and consideration.
Anubhuti Kumar, Highlighter Editor
The United States is no stranger to the idea of protesting. Protesting has historically been used to initiate real change during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. It was a pivotal part of changing public opinion about the Vietnam War. It engendered change during the Civil Rights Movement, marked by nonviolent demonstration and implementation of civil disobedience through peaceful protests.
The word came from the Latin word “protestari” which means “to declare publicly.” This then transformed in the late 14th century to Middle French as “protester” and then made its way into the English vernacular not long after, according to Dictionary.com.
NYU students have also never been strangers to protesting. Whether it be a blackout in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, a sit-in at the Kimmel Center for University Life stairs or a rally in Washington Square Park, protesting comes in many different forms. In the present day, protests are more common than ever, especially through the form of marching, from the Women’s March to the March for Our Lives. Protests such as these are necessary, as they highlight important issues and the dissatisfaction citizens have with authority figures, whether that be the government or the NYU administration.
By Thomas Chou, Beauty and Style Editor
As far as buzzwords go, “diversity” has long been criticized as one of the most overused of all time. The word quickly lost its meaning because it is so commonly used without explicit definition of what it means to each person. Diversity exists on a multitude of different planes, but at its essence, it is about the representation of variety.
NYU works to foster a sense of diversity through many student clubs and organizations that aim to create community between students from shared ethnicities, nationalities, religions, etc. Resources like the LGBTQ Student Center and the Center for Multicultural Education and Programming exists to help us feel comfortable and safe, with an annual Facts and Figures chart to update us on the quantifiable facets of diversity, though the figures on ethnic diversity at NYU, to some, are still not diverse enough.
In addition, living in a place like New York City can cushion students in what feels like a liberal bubble and thus a lack of diversity of ideas and opinions, but bigotry has certainly made its presence known on our campus — less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump was elected, the prayer room at the Tandon School of Engineering was vandalized.
But still, what is diversity? Is it identities, oftentimes reduced to numbers and statistics? Is it diversity of thought? These days, the term “diversity” can mean so much more than what NYU likes to advertise, and there needs to be a discussion about what diversity is and what it can mean for future generations.
By Ryan Mikel, Arts Editor
“Wow, there’s a whole week dedicated to students with gay friends? They’re so brave.” These were the words I overheard a student say as they acknowledged a poster promoting NYU Ally Week. The annual week of events and programs, held this year from April 9 to 13, was initiated by the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs and the LGBTQ Student Center six years ago to help students and faculty “deepen their understanding of the experiences of others” and raise awareness of the injustices that many on the fringe of society face everyday.
While anyone can be an ally, the term gets a little murky depending on who you ask. To some, an ally could be a straight-identifying individual who uses LGBTQ advocacy for social and political gain. But to others, weren’t the Allies a coalition of countries that opposed the Axis Powers during World War II?
The origin of the term is as murky as its meaning, but an ally’s responsibilities –– especially in today’s political and social climate –– should be as clear as ever. While NYU offers its own takes as to what an ally is and how to be a better one at that — including a message from our very own President Andrew Hamilton — the Anti-Oppression Network, a coalition of grassroots groups and community organizations, detailed these responsibilities and roles on their website.
According to the group, an ally is neither an identity nor is it self-defined. Rather, it is a person in a position of privilege, working in solidarity with those who are not. Allies listen more and speak less; they self-educate and don’t expect personal gain. While allies are commonly associated with the LGBTQ community, anyone with a voice can be and should be working to support and turn the spotlight toward those in the shadows.
The term “ally” dates back to the 14th century, meaning “one united with another by treaty or league.” And today, this “league” is the celebration of diversity and the persistent practice of standing in solidarity.
By Jemima McEvoy, Editor-in-Chief
Whether it came up in a debate between friends or you saw it on a sticker plastered on the outside of your classroom door, you have probably been exposed to the term “safe spaces” at some point in your academic career. But where did the term come from, and what does it actually mean?
Originating in gay and lesbian bars in the mid-1960s when consensual gay sex was against the law in many states and when members of the LGBTQ community couldn’t hold hands or dance together without risking criminal punishment, safe spaces became the label for places where people could openly express their sexuality among others who were doing the same. Places that police would frequent were not “safe,” as individuals would be subject to oppression.
Although safe spaces were at first limited to the LGBTQ community, the term quickly spread to encompass other marginalized groups in society. For example, women and people of color also began to use the term, referring to places where they could feel respected and protected. Implicit in the etymology of the term, safe spaces are needed for marginalized groups to create physical places where they can feel comfortable, something dominant social groups have always had.
Some safe spaces are created artificially, while others emerge naturally, but however they arise, they serve an important role society — and especially in the classroom — for making people comfortable to express themselves and for combatting social and political repression.
By Victor Porcelli, Deputy Opinion Editor
Robin DiAngelo, who invented the term “white fragility,” wonders why white people find it difficult to talk about racism. The United States’ unique history has resulted in racism intertwined in the fabric of the country’s culture, and despite the tactics used to dismiss it, it has remained at the forefront of national discussion for years. Whether on an individual or national level, the discussion is often dominated by those who become uncomfortable and defensive at the mere mention of race-related issues: this is white fragility.
White people reacting defensively when the topic of racism is brought up has been happening for quite a while, but the specific feeling of shame or nervousness over the idea of being responsible for racism has not. To feel shame or nervousness over a racist act, one has to first consider it wrong and unfortunately, it has taken quite a while for white people to develop this sentiment. This is why “white fragility” is a contemporary term, as in the past, racism has not been such a source of shame — and even today, it is not always frowned upon.
White fragility stems from an individual not wanting to feel responsible for the actions of their entire race. White people, when confronted about the existence or prevalence of racism, often feel attacked, like they are being accused of participating in racist acts. To admit that racism is a problem is to admit that your race — and by extension, you — has done something wrong. Perhaps this is why the majority of white people in the U.S. believe racism is drastically less prevalent than non-whites, wishing to alleviate themselves of perceived culpability.
White fragility, although a new term, has provided a way to describe a phenomenon, one that could potentially postpone progress toward equality.
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Photos by Veronica Liow and Echo Chen. Videos by Alana Beyer. Design by Rachel Buigas-Lopez.