Letter to the Editor: Bucknellians for Social Justice

 To the Editor:

In light of the recurring problem of students wearing dehumanizing Halloween costumes, we would like to encourage our community to orient our discussions around the politics of empathy. To act with empathy is to pair ethics with compassion, knowledge with kindness. The politics of empathy encourages us to act with our hearts as well as our heads, to imagine the impact rather than defend the intent.

Working from this point of view brings into focus the privilege that surrounds choices that to the privileged may seem harmless but in reality are far from it. Privilege is most pernicious when it leans in to its own luxury of oblivion veiled as naiveté. Ignoring the material reality of racism, transphobia, poverty, sexual violence, and other forms of deprivation for the sake of a joke or in alleged ‘good fun’ is the epitome of privilege. This also applies to acts of cultural appropriation that demean and belittle others.

Acting with our heads and hearts can remind us of the diversity represented in our community and help guide our actions to support and sustain a climate of respect where we seek to understand our histories, experiences, and differences rather than trivialize them for the sake of entertainment. Taking the time to think through our choices and actions, including imagining how they may be interpreted by others, allows us to act in accord with our self-conceptions as compassionate and informed people.

Now is also a good time to remember that free speech is valuable not for its own sake and not merely for fear of what would happen if it were denied. Free speech is valuable primarily because it allows for the open exchange of ideas, for debate, and for disagreement. Objecting to the content of another’s free speech is an act of respect for the principle of free speech and the social and moral progress it makes possible.

All of us have made assumptions or said or done things that may have offended others. Being a compassionate and informed person requires a willingness to acknowledge and learn from such mistakes. For those of us hurt by insensitivity, let there be healing and reassurance that those who take responsibility for such problematic behaviors are willing to grow in their wake. For all of us, let this be a moment when we recommit to being more mindful of our privileges and of how our words and deeds may alienate us from one another.

Bucknellians for Social Justice,

Sue Ellen Henry, Education

Nikki Young, Women’s and Gender Studies

Erica Gene Delsandro, Women’s and Gender Studies

Amanda Wooden, Environmental Studies

Rosalie Rodriguez, Multicultural Student Services

Bill Flack, Psychology and Social Justice Residential College

Deirdre O’Connor, Writing Center

Peg Cronin, Writing Center

Sheila Lintott, Philosophy

Nina Banks, Economics

Amy Golightly, Education

Abe Feuerstein, Education

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