OPINION: Exclusive spaces are necessary

The inside of the Queer Resource Center. One wall is painted with rainbow stripes and there is a board of resources on wall. There are several chairs and couches around a central table.
(TSL File Photo)

On Feb. 6, the Queer Resource Center hosted the “BlaQ Mixer” to kick off Black History Month. The event was advertised as one centering around “black queer, trans and intersex students, staff and faculty at the 7Cs.” At first, the Facebook page and posters for the gathering said it was a “closed event,” meaning that non-black and/or straight people would not be allowed in the space. 

Then, the Claremont Independent wrote a blistering editorial calling the practice “segregation,” claiming that the QRC was against embracing differences. In response, the Facebook page for the event was changed to read “all allies are welcome,” deleting the phrase “closed event.” 

The QRC should not have opened their BlaQ Mixer to the public; they should have kept it closed as a space for queer black students. The QRC and every other space maintained by culturally marginalized students should be preserved because the 7Cs are still not a sufficiently equitable space. Until prejudice is dislodged from the reigning culture of the 7Cs, students should be allowed to regulate their own exposure to prejudice by maintaining spaces free of it. 

Claremont provides many reasons for students to want their own spaces. Letting minority students have these spaces isn’t “segregation.” Nor does it prevent the exchange of ideas, “draw lines” between groups or support the attitude that one should remain within one’s particular identity group. 

There are students in Claremont who think it’s okay to say the n-word. There are plenty of students who still call things “ghetto,” touch black people’s hair or bodies without permission and engage in digital blackface, among many other unacceptable actions.

In 2017, an alt-right Facebook meme page surfaced at Pomona College. The Claremont Independent reported on it, calling it an “anti-PC meme group,” with a member of the now-defunct Facebook group describing it as “aimed at free speech primarily and contains a range of political views and backgrounds of students.”

But, the meme group contained images and comments “so vile that they would be right at home in the comments section of The Daily Stormer,” wrote Ross Steinberg PO ’18, then-managing editor of the Claremont Independent. Following the publication of the story, Steinberg was subsequently fired from his position.

The Independent’s editorial on the BlaQ Mixer claims that Claremont students are “mature enough to not hijack group-centered events, making exclusion … senseless.” Given the above evidence, it seems pretty clear that this is not so. Prejudice definitely still exists at the 7Cs.

The BlaQ Mixer did initially explicitly say that people outside the stated affinity groups would not be welcome in that space. However, in all kinds of mainstream spaces in Claremont — academic and social — Claremont students have had no qualms in maintaining anti-black and/or heteronormative attitudes. Anywhere non-black students say the n-word in any context implicitly tells black students that they are not welcome in that space.

In this way, not allowing non-queer black 7Cers in the BlaQ Mixer is not exclusion. It’s providing a place where students can escape anti-black and heteronormative spaces. 

And if you’re worried about constricting the “previously unchecked flow of ideas and experiences” by taking away safe spaces, fear not, for all other spaces are open for exchanging. 

These safe spaces’ purpose is not to educate outsiders. Minority students are forced to get out of their “comfort zones” every day, all the time. 

Providing a space where the students don’t have to face these pressures and can exchange ideas within their groups doesn’t impede any exposure or growth. Students who go to safe spaces still go outside. They still go to class. They aren’t locking themselves out of the outside world forever.

It doesn’t make sense to ask minority students, “Why are you excluding other people from your spaces?” without asking if that sphere, that larger place, be it a college, workplace or others, has succeeded in making the place equitable. 

As long as minority students feel the need to have spaces to themselves, we can rest assured that Claremont is not nearly sufficiently equitable for those students. Students would not create those spaces out of anything other than necessity.

Margot Rosenblatt SC ’23 is from New York, New York. She loves talking with members of the Claremont Independent. Communication and mutual understanding across the aisle is very important to her.

Gloria Bates CM ’20 is a guest writer from Anaheim, California. She takes time outside of her role on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps basketball team and her work as a biochemistry major to learn how to help create equitable social spaces organized around food and music. 

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