It’s no secret that 5C students are a pretty politically correct bunch. The occasional bias-related incident notwithstanding, I think we do a fairly good job of making the 5Cs a safe and open environment for everyone, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, position on the gender spectrum, poor choice in haircut, or whatever. There are a bunch of reasons for this: the diversity of the student body, a better-than-average understanding of identity issues (which creates a space for empathizing with other individuals), and the fact that nobody wants to run around saying stupid stuff that’s going to offend the people they’re living and learning with. Generally, we’re not a bunch of bigots.
However, this isn’t always true. We may not normally think of casual anti-Christianity as “bigoted,” but I don’t think it’s representative of “open-mindedness,” either—and I’ve seen a fair amount of it here on Pomona’s campus. An example: last Easter, right before the Walker Wall fiasco, a passenger in a Draper Center van wished me, in a moment of poor taste, a happy “Zombie Jesus Day.” Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty tough to offend—and Zombie Jesus Day didn’t do it—but I can think of more than a couple of people who would be deeply hurt by a comment like this. I know that most Pomona students are too smart, skeptical, and romantically disillusioned to buy into any religion, and certainly not one as trendy as Christianity (“Oh no, I only like Christ’s early stuff” doesn’t quite work), but let’s keep in mind that we’re making fun of a fundamental part of an individual’s identity here.
What if, at the beginning of April, I ran around wishing strangers a “Happy Fag Month?” It would not go over very well. Or what if, instead of painting over a rainbowed Walker Wall, the Bev Scavvy participants had painted over a “Rejoice for Christ Is Risen” banner on the same wall? I don’t think we would have observed the same outburst of anger. Students at the 5Cs only seem to be concerned with certain kinds of prejudices, and this is wrong.
It could be that I am particularly sensitive to the prejudice against Christians because when I go home, the religious environment is so dramatically different. In North Carolina, you’ve got about the same chance of being asked what your preferred gender pronoun is as you have of coming back from the dead after a three-day stint spent harrowing Hell. On the other hand, most people would assume that you go to church. The more “traditional” forms of bigotry are much more common.
It seems like we are pretty good at fighting dominant discourse on this campus, but I think we should be aware of our own assumptions as well. There’s a dominant discourse in every community, including at the 5Cs, and ours doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for religion. Maybe we should think about broadening our horizons even further. Isn’t that what a liberal arts education is all about?