Opinion Editor Andrew Eaddy breaks down the misconception of the HaverBubble in the context of activism.
In the wake of the election, students on campus have responded in a bevy of ways. Some have turned to pen and paper in an effort to share their thoughts in written form. Others have been more vocal, speaking out at events on their discontent with the state of affairs in our country. Still others have run to the streets to protest and march against the injustice being championed by the United States Government.
These expressions of frustration are all equally valid – everyone has a right to peaceably demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the American political system in any way they see fit. I do feel however, that many of these expressions of discontent, solidarity, and commitment to a cause have been carried out lacking the perspective necessary to give those same actions the gravitas and validation they might otherwise deserve.
Many students on this campus only speak out on issues for “likes” on Facebook; they only protest for a picture they can share with their friends. This behavior stems from a place of privilege that allows for students to view political action in which they participated, as a social triviality. And yes, there are benefits to the dissemination of information through social media such as spreading awareness and showing solidarity, but all too often these posts to social media act as the only action one takes. You attended a protest, that is fantastic, what will you do now? This sort of behavior is steeped in privilege, and while there is nothing inherently wrong or malicious in posting these images to social media, too often it is the extent of students’ activism-related endeavors. As much as some would like to believe that stepping off campus implies a separation from the popularly coined “HaverBubble,” this is not the case. What we experience on campus – the safety, security, and monochromatic schema of opinions that exist here – is not terribly different from the environment and breadth of sentiments expressed at the events, marches, and protests people attend every month. The “HaverBubble” is not solely an on-campus phenomenon, and to be perfectly honest it is not an accurate moniker either.
It is this understanding which has led me to the believe that the “HaverBubble” does not exist. A bubble suggests transparency – an ability to observe that which does not exist in your sphere of comprehension. A bubble suggests ease of access, fragility. While this may apply to some students on this campus, these attributes do not describe what is meant by the “HaverBubble.” The world that many Haverford students live in is very much insular, albeit not always the fault of their own.
Haverford students for the most part, myself included oftentimes, wear HaverBlinders. Our scope is often narrow, even when we like to think of ourselves as worldly, cosmopolitan, and well -rounded. We see most of what is available to us, but there is so much in our peripheries that we simply do not receive. While I think it is unrealistic for everyone to become aware of everything which is not within our scope, I think it is important to at least acknowledge these blind spots that we all have.
A big blind spot that many Haverford students have is the history of protest in America, and how it relates to the protests and marches that have been occurring recently. There is great merit to assembling to show solidarity for a cause, just as there is great merit to assembling for the purpose of catharsis, but all the while there needs to be a desire for change; something resolute in the minds of all participants – a goal.
There seems to be a lack of attention paid to the history of suffering and fighting in this country. That which was once used to make powerful political statements has now become a hub for social gatherings and social media extravaganzas. Protests, which used to be characterized by danger and risk, are now characterized by a communal sentiment of cheerfulness and seemingly naïve hope. This is not to say that more substantive emotions are not also present at these events, such as solidarity and passion, but within the aforementioned framework these emotions are greatly diluted. It seems that today, emotion and effort are channeled into selfish endeavors rather than working for a common good – more energy is put into telling the world that you attended a protest than working to remedy the issue you protested. It is this phenomenon which I find especially problematic.
Regarding protesting specifically, it is my belief that many students on this campus lack the historical perspective necessary to truly respect and appreciate the action that they take in the streets. During the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s, the act of protest carried weight because every time activists took to the streets, there was something at stake. The power of protest is derived from risk that participants take when they go outside to stand up for what they believe in. When students protest today, without that omen of harm hovering above their heads, it is important, then, for those students to acknowledge the nature of their protest – demonstrations today lack the severity of demonstrations in the past and that is a crucial distinction. The history of protest in this country seems to be lost to many students on this campus, and it is that lack of awareness that I find, at times, problematic.
With that being said, I do not wish to condemn everyone who has taken time out of their day to travel to marches and protests so that they might show support for issues that are dear to them. I do however, simply want to pose the question: what are you doing once the protest has ended? What further work are you committing to, so that the issues you so valiantly demonstrated for are eventually resolved?
It feels that oftentimes protests fulfill the same role as slacktivism within students not only on this campus but around the country – attending a protest becomes the lone action many people participate in. And I understand, attending a protest makes you feel like you have done something worthwhile; that you have made a difference. Unfortunately, if you want to truly make an impact, attending a protest or march is not enough.
Ultimately, I am simply asking those who protest for continued action. If you are unhappy with the state of affairs in this country, do not simply protest for a few hours. Use your Haverford privilege to continue working towards change from home. Furthermore, if you are protesting, keep in mind the backs on which we all stand – those who made the kind of protest that we partake in today acceptable. Try to remain aware of all of the dynamics at play when you participate in action like this. Use your voice to amplify the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves. Be purposeful in your action. We can protest and march, and return to the safety of campus. Do not take that for granted. Be loud, but say something.
I think we all can improve in our efforts to better the world, and I know too that to better the world is ultimately what we all want – I feel that this sentiment is special to the Haverford community. Let us simply keep striving to improve ourselves and the way we affect change, as well as increasing our awareness of all those who have come before us and still those who have yet to arrive.
With that, I encourage everyone to be active and work to make a change. I think that Elie Wiesel said it best in his 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, political views, that place must – at that moment, become the center of the universe.” Do not be silent.
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