Whose Turn To Speak?

Social Justice * by Joseph Marziale

Anonymously or by name, anyone can write to The JMAK using thejmak.org/submit.

“I see I am on the unpopular side … [I’m] not trying to catch major heat from, like, every single friend I have.”

Anonymous Freshman
Within their friend groups, many individual students feel that their opinions are unwelcome. They remain silent to keep the peace.

These days, few people are looking to take on more fights than those which they have to participate in on a daily basis. Waking up is usually a fight on its own, followed by the myriad, beautiful everyday struggles of a typical college student. Humans don’t normally like it when others bash heads. It’s why we find so much joy in the things in our lives that give us a sense of peace. One who has a habit of procrastination is fueled by the temporary joy gained by putting his or her labors aside.

One of the main ways that people find peace is through a group of friends. I can confidently say that my friends at Roberts are some of the finest people I’ll ever meet in my life, and I love their personalities. In short, I feel at peace when I’m with them. This is because I can be who I am around them.

Everyone deserves good friends like mine. But, while we feel safe in peaceful areas, there is also a time to stand up. To be heard. An unintentional downfall of a god-sent friend group is the collective tendency to not vocalize disagreements. Many students even suffer under the pressure of fear: if I say something, will people get mad?

An unintentional downfall of a god-sent friend group is the collective tendency to not vocalize disagreements.”

Ironically, living in silence is somewhat dangerous.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand. I was running an anonymous poll to receive reactions from Ben Deacon’s Free Speech in the Digital Landscape. Mixed reactions were present, but most students leaned on Deacon’s side with a libertarian slant, i.e. that social media companies have almost no right to censor its users. However, there were perspectives on the other end. I was talking to one freshman who claims that private companies should have considerable control over their own platforms. While this student’s argument was completely valid, they were afraid to come forth with it in the public realm, not because they felt they were uneducated, but for the fear of others giving them “heat” or hostility.

This interaction confirmed the fear that I have about our campus culture. As fellow humans, we don’t exist to drown out minority opinions. However, I believe that much of campus culture is geared towards removing conflict and expecting that everyone gets along all the time. This should only be true in the civil sense. But, we all deserve the space to voice an opinion, even if it’s not kosher. If everyone doesn’t have a platform to speak, then we are failing each other and our democracy.

Today, I’m encouraging everyone to examine their friend groups and ask themselves, am I creating an environment where my opinion is drowning out those of others? Do I grant others the time to speak? Am I a good listener? Conversely, am I a victim of suppression? Am I lacking s platform? If we all honestly answer these questions, then I believe that we’ll achieve a much more equitable and moral society, one that isn’t afraid to address conflict, but one that is accepting of others and is willing to “work it out.” Only then can we say that we’re truly acting as advocates for others.