Bias incidents are not "punchlines": Campus Banter

Posted by Taylor Dafoe

A couple of days ago I heard someone tell a joke to a friend. The setup was normal — a couple of multiracial characters, maybe a blond girl saying something moronic — and the punch line even more predictable: the typical racist remark. But that wasn't the interesting part. After it was told, the joke-teller's friend responded by saying "bias incident," and they both laughed.

It's true, the phrase "bias incident" is becoming a staple one-liner on campus, a punchline to some awful, racist or sexist or anything-ist joke about people walking into a bar or something. But this is not a joke; this is serious.

The alleged events at the end of this past semester, whether true or not, brought to a climax an issue that had been stirring all semester. It's one that has been a part of campus conversations and stupid jokes and pictures of penises on whiteboards for months. It's a problem that's been overshadowed by bigger, well-publicized national events that have occurred recently.

And with the wide-reaching nature of this issue, our college campus is, of course, at the heart of it. But that in no way vindicates us here at Skidmore. In fact, we're very much at blame here. We're making national headlines again, this time for our bigotry. And it's starting to catch up with us. We're chopping away at the prestige of our school's name, turning it into a sort of joke itself and laughing the whole time. We're probably one of the "funniest" campuses in the country right now.

The definition of bias is certainly a little ambiguous — not to mention totally subjective — and it's something that's almost impossible to monitor. Realistically, telling people to not do or say things that might offend anybody would only prevent them from doing it in public. However, that's obviously not the problem (I would hope that most people would have the sensibility to not do so anyway). No, first it needs to stop at the source: the individuals responsible for such narrow-mindedness.

But that's not all we need to do. I think there's a bigger problem at play here: the general campus attitude toward "bias incidents." Maybe you've seen all the posters hung around campus talking about bias incidents, or heard about the countless clubs meant to address the issue. Maybe you've attended one of the teach-ins. But none of that really matters anymore. The irony of the issue is that, in a way, we're all responsible, even the victims.

It's the college. It's the community. It's a weird way of life that for some reason seems to be OK, even seems to be normal. But we need to change. We need to fix the outlook of the campus, and to condemn such an intolerant mindset. Our reputation is at stake now, teetering precariously on the edge of an issue that is much larger than our small school, its privileged students and the sleepy little town of Saratoga.

So let's head this one off at the pass, clean our minds, bite our tongues and restore our reputation as being open-minded. This has already been a rough year for Skidmore; let's not make it any worse.

Taylor Dafoe is an undecided sophomore from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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