“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent…The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men [and women] of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
-Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Let’s make a deal: I’ll give you the opportunity to join a sports team, be its captain, and then go on to win a Rhodes Scholarship to study in England. The only catch? You have to associate with the people I want you to. You have to do what I say and let them in. If you resist, if you cry for help, if you refuse to comply, well, none of these opportunities for you. Have fun with your friends.
But see, it’s OK. I can do this. Because I’m the one who let you in. I’m the one with the high standards, who picked you out of thousands, who let you have that “H” emblazoned onto your chest. I’m the one who feeds you. I’m the one who lets you learn. I’m the one who builds legacies. And though I’m not the one to control your little private club over there, I’m the one with the Power on this side of the street.
And you can’t say a thing. Because you’re the one who discriminates. You’re the one who extends the invitation to a specific few, decides they’d be a good fit, and lets them have that phoenix or that bee or that Greek letter emblazoned onto their chest. You’re the one who lets them party. You’re the one to fear.
I know that I haven’t provided safe spaces in the past.
I know that I don’t provide enough social spaces now.
But I’m just trying to be fair. Sure, some of my volunteer clubs still require people to apply. And I know that there is a lot of pressure to be smart and perfect and kind—to make some mistakes but not too many, to engage in debate but not disagree too much, to admit that you’re struggling but not too loudly. To say you’re OK when you’re really not.
But people don’t remember all of that. There’s a lot of “diversity” on my side. And they smile oh so nicely. So what if I don’t do a lot to actually make you all interact? You’re the bad one. I may create the problems on this side of the street, but it’s on your side where victims fall prey.
Maybe I’ve crafted an environment where everyone feels the need to be included — where instead of being free to say “no” and be OK with that, there is an overwhelming need to say “yes” and not be rejected. Sure, it could be better for all of your sakes to realize that you don’t have to bend to the will of others, that the world will not end if that one says “bye” because eventually someone will say “hello.”
Could I do more to make my side of the street more positive and healthy? To care for you when you get assaulted instead of putting you through the wringer? Could I admit that I’ve contributed to your plague, that sexual assault and gender discrimination happen in my sphere as well, that I’ve made you sick then sent you to the slaughter?
But first, I’m going to make you change. I’m going to force this pill down your throat. If I have to impose a quota, I’ll do it. If I have to deprive you of your social-moral freedoms of speech and association, I will. Because remember, I’m the good one.
I’m going to make you remember that I hold all the cards. I’m going to make you like it. Maybe not now. Maybe not tomorrow. But you don’t have a choice. You’ll like it eventually.
Adabelle U. Ekechukwu is a 1L. She graduated from Harvard College in 2014 as an active member of Pleiades Society and co-captain of the Varsity Women’s Track and Field team.