Let me begin by stating some crucial facts: I am a queer, multiracial woman of color. I am a survivor of sexual assault and suffer from multiple mental illnesses. I am a low-income, first-generation student.
All this aside, I've been able to attend Columbia because of an astoundingly generous grant from the University itself. I am honored to have this opportunity regardless of my marginalized identities, and I acknowledge my privilege in being able to attend such a renowned institution.
Still, despite the presence of those who, like me, make Columbia a diverse community, it is not quite devoid of the political issues relevant today, both nationally and globally. But when students like myself proceed to address controversial political issues that directly affect our lives, we are often accused of nitpicking or, even worse, being "too politically correct." I feel that this war on political correctness invalidates the existence and experiences of marginalized people, contradicting a campus culture that boasts inclusivity.
Many Columbia students seem to believe that because we are so "diverse," our dorms and classrooms cannot possibly be plagued by hateful biases. Marginalized students—myself included—are told that we should not be so "sensitive" to every microaggression that we encounter, lest we come across as "ungrateful" to the University.
And that is simply not fair.
In its mission statement, Columbia claims to "attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues." When I was a prospective student, these ideals were very important to me—they still are. But now that I'm here, I find myself wondering time and time again: Where exactly on campus do these ideas ring true?
I am fully aware of the plethora of organizations, clubs, and special interest groups that do an exceptional job representing a wide range of students. Still, I am constantly left with the same questions: Why do I not have a single professor that looks like me? Why could some people not fathom the mere possibility of racism existing on American college campuses while I stood in solidarity with Mizzou and black students all over the world?
And why is it that, when hate crimes directed towards the transgender community occurred repeatedly for two months in Carman last semester, my residence hall, my floormates, and I were only given a 15-minute, non-comprehensive floor meeting during which many of the people in attendance cracked jokes and spent the entire time on their phone?
As illustrated by this example, the knowledge gained by attending this institution does not excuse the fact that some students at our University tend to ignore problematic occurrences. In my mind, by ignoring these instances or brushing them all off as people being "too politically correct," we suggest that the voices and concerns of marginalized communities are not valid.
By no means am I intentionally trying to attack or silence the privileged, the majority, or those who may just harbor a different viewpoint than my own. I am not questioning the intelligence of my professors. I do not resent the names inscribed on Butler Library or my classmates with opposing opinions to my own. I am, however, tired of speaking out only to have my voice be muffled.
It is time to face the reality experienced by many Columbia students: We are thrust into a stew of injustices derived from underrepresentation, misrepresentation, and an increase of "respectability politics." Moreover, it is time to criticize those who force students to conform to the mainstream rather than simply, and rightfully, demanding acceptance from the majority.
Ultimately, I do not think that "politically correct" can ever be used as an insult. When I am "politically correct," I am trying to be moral and inclusive—something that many people on our very own campus claim to be, but seldom are. As members of an educational institution, we have a responsibility to speak openly about injustice within our own campus so that we can extend those ethics into the world after we graduate.
I am a queer, multiracial woman of color. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I suffer from multiple mental illnesses. I am a first-generation, low-income student who is absolutely grateful for the opportunity to attend one of the greatest universities in the world. But I do, and always will, complain about, question, and refute attacks that dehumanize and invalidate my identity and my experiences, as well as those of others.
I urge you to do the same.
Avegail Muñoz is a Columbia College first-year with prospective majors in English and women's and gender studies.
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