I sit in one of my gender studies classes as we discuss yet another controversial issue. I don't remember the details of the conversation, but that's not the important part.
At some point, the atmosphere exits the safe, academic discussion it was initially, to a room of silent tension. As one of my peers is voicing their opinion I hear two other students' voices bring their thoughts to a halt. To say these two students were yelling would be a hint dramatic, but the inflection in their voice was nothing short of condescending and snide.
The student initially talking fell silent. As discussion flowed into a new topic I couldn't help but notice the body language of my peer. Their head was dropped and shoulders hunched. As I looked to the left I saw teardrops drop onto their notes warping the thin blue lines of their notebook pages.
A classmate that actively participates in class discussion, that tries their hardest to absorb every word spoken fell silent. My heart shattered into a million tiny pieces as I watched yet another emerging feminist muted.
We cannot expect others to learn, or engage in vital conversations if we continue to create unsafe environments. The classroom, especially, must be a place where students are eagerly invited to speak frankly and fearlessly.
We must celebrate the effort to learn because that is more than many are willing to do.
So, if you are reading this as the newly emerging social justice warrior, I thank you. Your effort means so much. If you ever feel dismissed or targeted, I deeply apologize. Know that while some may emphasize your mistakes rather than your strides, there are many more that welcome you graciously.
And to those that have called out, this is your opportunity to become more educated. I too have made the mistake of calling others out rather than calling them into the conversation. It is time we create a more productive dialogue.
We cannot expect others to learn and adapt if we are not willing to do the same.