Issue 34 · November 2021
Art & Lit
Facing our Closet of Skeletons – Brooks’ Latest Policy on Music Censorship Reveals Deeper Problems
On Thursday, November 11th, students and faculty members at Brooks attended a town hall forum discussing Brooks’ latest policy on music censorship. While the town hall has served as a long-anticipated platform for students to express their concerns, Brooks’ reactions to the music policy’s controversy reveal larger underlying problems within the institution’s DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) work.
The policy, which prohibits students from publicly playing songs that contain “any message that dehumanizes, degrades or demeans a group of people” and “any message that promotes violence, harassment or hate language or symbols” was met with criticism from a significant portion of the student body. During the town hall, students voiced their concern regarding the over-protective nature of the policy, ambiguity within its wording, and its potential of restricting the cultural representation of minority students. These arguments were made by students, specifically students of color, since the introduction of the music policy at the end of last school year; the town hall meeting is the result of a prolonged protest that was repeatedly silenced by the school.
The music policy is Brooks’response after an incident regarding a non-black student singing the n-word along to a song being played at a school dance as well as Brooks’ attempt to foster an “anti-racist” environment after the Black Lives Matter movement. The policy is unsatisfying in many ways. First, faculties in charge of DEI work held different definitions of the policy: one faculty believed that the policy only censors songs with explicit lyrics while another stated that any song containing a harmful message would be restricted as well. Brooks has also made little to no effort to educate its students on the impact of language. Despite meetings being held within faculties and student leaders in DEI, little progress has been made. More dishearteningly, a student leader of the Gender & Sexuality alliance’s plan to speak about homophobic slurs in chapel service was immediately rejected. Under this context, the music policy feels like nothing but a desperate attempt to minimize incidents regarding racism without actually making Brooks a safer environment for minority students.
When facing dissent from students, Brooks continued to be passive and even at times suppressive to students’ efforts to bring change. Despite the administration claiming that they appreciate knowing the perspective of the general student body, several student leaders’ proposal to send a schoolwide survey on the music policy was turned down by deans. Moreover, the first meeting within DEI student leaders and faculties to discuss the music policy abruptly ended when the leading faculty member of DEI work, a white woman, walked out the room when students politely challenged her argument to ban songs such as “Way 2 Sexy” by Drake and “Body” by Meghan Thee Stallion. Situations like this can be especially discouraging to students from engaging in candid discussions, therefore slowing down the process of developing solutions.
The music policy demonstrates a tremendous liability within Brooks’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion: hubris. The school’s refusal to accept critical voices diminishes its possibility to make real changes. Controversy regarding the policy is only a single facet of a larger problem that cannot be solved without listening to students. Yet, the administration’s authoritarian approach to enforce a policy that faces overwhelming student disapproval only highlights its obsession to look anti-racist rather than be anti-racist. Nevertheless, this does not mean that students who care about DEI should give up. As new platforms to discuss school policies, such as the town hall meetings, emerge, it is now more important than ever for students to apply pressure and keep fighting.
There will come a time when you're no longer going to, just running from.
That time is now.
You board your flight, the nerves on your hands twitching from the static of the crowded airport and the useless tricks up your sleeve. You let loose for a brief moment, letting your gaze traverse across the dazzling scene around you, one filled with metallic humming and lonesome minds of travelers too heartbroken to stay. You let out a sigh, and walk down the jet bridge to enter the plane. It is the summer of 2020, and you haven't been home for about 19 months.
The pandemic has robbed you of the opportunity to even see your parents and give them a hug, let alone let you travel back to your home country to be with the friends and family that are your people and community. You wonder what they look like now, if the sycamore tree in your neighborhood is still standing, if mom still wears that navy blue winter coat when it snows and the heating in the apartment building is late, if grandma still laughs heartily at old stories of you at the dinner table after making you the best food… Love becomes a distilled clump of memories, memories become algorithmic emotions, emotions become blots of invisible ink on your mind.
Days before you embarked on your trip home, your mother informed you over the phone that your grandmother is sick. A tight, heavy weight suddenly materialized above your heart. What do you mean sick, you ask. Cancer, your mom says across the screen, lung cancer. The moment you hear that term all the light in the room dies for a heartbeat, the weight drops, and a bit of yourself becomes soluble in tears.
And by the time you arrive, you realize that things are never going to be the same. After teary reunions with loved ones you eventually reunite with yourself, the person that you left behind when you journeyed to America for school. It doesn't even surprise you when you fail to render his appearance. And quietly the two of you put your hearts in synchronous motion again, talking without sounds, remembering without bounds. You hug your grandmother tightly, wincing as her weakened body shivers ever so slightly upon embracing her grandson after a 2-year separation. You keep on raising your voice to tell her how much you miss and love her food at the lunch table because she can't hear anymore. You hold back tears as she looks away when she says goodbye to you and it's at that moment you realize you won't ever see her again.
But hey, it's life and life only.
Summer is not as long as it used to be, you think, as the city that you grew up in for 15 years slowly melts into the rearview mirror. You've been traveling so much that going back on the road feels like homecoming.
Is the past as tangible as a family picture or as magically translucent as a dream? You do not know.
There will come a time when you're no longer going to, just running from.
That time is now.
Skeletons in the closet. It’s general definition is a discreditable or embarrassing fact that someone wishes to keep secret. We all have skeletons; some might be about appearance, thoughts, labels, or ones past. Most commonly, those skeletons are our identity. For a lot of us, sexuality is a considerable part of our identity but it is commonly kept hidden and “in our closets”. There are ideas around labels and coming out that need to change in order for this not to be a thing we keep hidden.
My sexuality has been a roller coaster. I came out as bisexual in fith grade and stuck with that label until sixth grade. Then in seventh grade, I went back into the closet, and in eighth grade I came out as a lesbian. Now, in ninth grade, people would say I am bi. I say “people would say” and not “I identify as'' because to be honest I don’t. Bisexual is defined as sexually attracted to two or more genders . All I really know about my sexuality is that I am not straight. I haven’t really figured out the whole preference thing, however I believe I have one, and I also haven’t found a label. To me, labels feel restricting. I feel as if people expect me to fit into that label perfectly, however that might not be the case. For instance, if I end up only dating only men then I would feel invalidated by that label. So, what do I identify as? Personally don't fully identify with any label. Labels are a way to stereotype people. They stop you from being your true authentic self.
Now why would I want to keep this all a secret, or more ironically: in the closet? You do not owe anyone a label or explanation of your sexuality. Some people may feel the need for a label to feel validation in their sexuality, but I believe we should leave this mindset behind. As I have figured out, trying to find a label is difficult and can drain you. You search for definitions upon definitions, and still can’t find that perfect one. You feel alone and as if the feelings you are experiencing are not real; no one else experiences them. I felt this way for quite a while, and I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is not a ‘perfect’ label for me, and that this doesn't make my sexuality any less valid. We should not have to spend time and energy on looking for a label. Just be who you are.
There is one flaw however to this idea of no labels: coming out. Because I don't identify specifically with anything I have found it harder to come out. Instead of just saying “I’m bi” I have struggled to find the words to describe what I am. I usually end up with queer or not straight. This is usually acceptable until you get that one person who is persistent on getting an exact explanation of queer. They don’t understand that that is the point of the word queer that ther is no exact definition for it. In response to such a person, I usually end up using labels to define my lack of labels. This is counterintuitive. We need to step away from this idea of needing labels, as it prevents people from coming out, and being who they actually are. So, when someone says they don’t identify with any label, leave it at that. As I said earlier: they do not owe anyone any explanation of THEIR sexuality.
The mindset around the idea of coming out needs to change. LGBTQ+ people are automatically put in the closet. You have no choice but to come out; you can't just be yourself. This stigmatizes the LGBTQ+ community, is not normal. We need to specifically tell people that we are not your average hetro. Now, I don't think the whole idea of coming out shouldn’t exist, but I believe that we need to change the idea around it. We are brought up in a world where it is though to keep “gay stuff” away from kids becuase it is seen as “innapropriate”, but at the same time we are showing kids hertosexual couples left and right. I remember being so relieved when I found out it was okay for someone to “like” the same sex as them.
This should not be how it works. We should be brought up in a world were kids are exposed at a young age to same sex realtionships, so they feel more acceptable. Parents should also not assume their kid is hetrosexual. When I was brought up, all the adults around me would reference my future partner as male. This made it even more confusing for young me, as it made me think that I was only allowed to like guys. We need to stop assuming kids sexualites and expose them to more diverse couples. This will help change the idea of coming out to more of a detail rather than a “I’m not normal” statement.
One of the biggest reasons LGBTQIA+ people stay in the closet is internalized homophobia. Homophobia and transphobia are unfortunately very real and very present. They not only stop people from being themselves from fear of being a social outcast, but they also have people fear for their safety. People will go to extreme terms to stop others from being themselves, and being with who they want to be with. Feeling as if you could get hurt from just existing, feels, as you can imaging, horrible. If you can in any way shape or form, help people of the LGBTQ+ community feel more safe and accepted, please do. I promise you, it will make a difference.