Osegbu in response to “When we’re too afraid to fight back”

To the editor,

I am writing this letter in response to Andrew Breland’s article titled “When we’re too afraid to fight back,” wherein he shares his opinion on the Bias Report System that Case Western Reserve University is set to implement in the coming months.

I would like to start out by saying that I for one am extremely happy to see that CWRU is taking a solid stand on social issues such as discrimination and that the campus administration is making such great efforts to live up to its initiative of diversity. Since my freshman year, I have seen CWRU’s campus grow in ways that I never would have believed possible. That is why I can say without remorse, restraint or uncertainty that Breland’s article is possibly the most toxic, violent and harmful piece of writing that has been published through The Observer.

The suggestions laid out in this article provide sufficient reasoning for exactly why CWRU is in such dire need of a Bias Reporting System in the first place. The argument that is made against the measure in this article is, “Well, if discrimination isn’t being dealt with in a systematic way anywhere else, then why should CWRU waste its time?” This type of logic is counterproductive and problematic for multiple reasons.

Discrimination is not simply a person-to-person problem. If ending discrimination was as easy as “dealing with real problems yourself,” then discrimination would not be an issue at all, and it certainly wouldn’t be as ubiquitous as it is today. However it has come to a point where discrimination has become so prevalent in everyday interactions in America that it has been normalized and even deemed acceptable to the point where it is no longer taken seriously and is categorized as a “joke”. To simply leave it to up to individuals to cope with does not hold the offending party accountable or even responsible for their error, because after the encounter, the offending party can simply give a half-hearted “whoops,” a Kanye shrug and then be free to continue on with their problematic behavior.

When one is not held accountable for their offenses, it sends the message that their behavior is perfectly acceptable. With no apparent consequences, a person will repeat their offense at the very least, and at the other extreme they will escalate their behavior and push the boundary to see how far they can go, sometimes going as far as real physical harm. This does not even account for relationships based on a power dynamic in which members of the community would feel uncomfortable or unsafe confronting the offending party, such as a professor-student or an employer-employee relationship.

This article seems to be written with the impression that discrimination is not harmful in and of itself, that it’s just something similar to a bad test grade, where one has to deal with it, brush it off and bounce back. It also implicitly suggests that those who deal with discrimination and voice their concerns are by default overreacting or taking things more seriously than they should. I would like to make one thing very clear: Discrimination is harmful to those that experience it. Discrimination can have both external (academic, professional, physical) and internal (emotional, mental) effects on a person. If one experiences discrimination on a consistent basis, then it is possible to develop internalized oppression, or self-hate. The consequences of self-hate can last for years, or even a lifetime. These types of effects should not be underestimated or diminished.

It is very alarming that a member of the CWRU community would write an article like this. Andrew Breland’s article reflects a profound lack of empathy, perspective and understanding that erases the experiences of many students on this campus. Also if the suggestions in this article were to be taken into consideration, they would have the potential to perpetuate discrimination in a way that gives complete impunity to the perpetrators, thus continuing the apathetic cycle that CWRU is trying to escape. I highly suggest that the author of this article take a deeper look at the implications of discrimination, both on an individual and systemic level, and really think about his stance on how it should be dealt with in this community.

Uchenna Osegbu

For another student’s view on the topic, see “Khan in response to ‘When we’re too afraid to fight back.’”