I go by many names, but to you, I am the average Yalie.
You know me. You recognize me. There’s a good chance you are, or at least were, me. I slip on my LL Bean boots in the morning, and put on my Barbour jacket to go to class on weekdays. I drink from red solo cups on High Street on weekend nights and stumble to Box afterwards.
I’m white. Or maybe I’m Asian. Or maybe I’m Jewish. Maybe my parents are lawyers. Or maybe they’re doctors. Maybe, more generally, I’ve never felt particularly out of place at Yale. But one thing’s for sure. I can’t pretend to understand the pain that some are going through right now.
I posted a Facebook status last week saying, “I stand with all women of color.” I apologized for not caring more, for not being a better ally. I pledged to stop going to SAE on the weekends, although to be frank, I know some SAE brothers and I swear they’re nice guys. I’ve had countless lunch conversations about what’s been happening, and I’ve been indignant, confused and exhausted.
I may have attended one or two events last week if they didn’t conflict with my classes. But this week, I had a lot of assignments and commitments, so I wasn’t able to attend the March of Resilience on Monday. I felt bad about it. But not bad enough to skip section — it is my grade on the line, after all, and attendance is mandatory.
Or maybe I did attend, and felt good about it afterwards. I made sure to say hi to as many people as possible and put videos from the march on Snapchat. I made sure others knew I was there, and it felt good to be included in something larger than myself. I was proud. Proud of my fellow students? Maybe. Proud of me? More likely. But still, the day left me moved.
By the time Harvard-Yale rolls around, or maybe by the time Spring Fling comes along, I’ll find myself on High Street again. I’ll be at SigEp, and someone will say “Hey, let’s go to SAE!” I’ll be drunk and I won’t think about what happened this fall, and won’t think about the promise I made myself earlier this year. I’ll show up, remember and feel bad. Not bad enough to leave, though. I’m here anyway, and plus, all my friends are here too.
By the time it’s finals week, I’ll be too busy to think about the realities I was forced to confront in November. By the time I come back from winter break, those events will be even further in the back of my mind.
Maybe in February, I’ll hear someone talk about the racial injustice on our campus, about hiring more faculty of color, about the problems that remain unresolved — and I’ll nod in agreement. But I won’t do more. I already have done my part. I already shared my Facebook status. I already stood in solidarity with students; I already did enough to be on the right side of history, at least once.
You know me, and right now, you want to forget me. You’ve managed to get away from me and maybe you’ve convinced yourself that I am no longer on your heels. You’ve shunned me, you’ve denounced me, but don’t forget that you were me — and you haven’t shaken me just yet.
But a part of me is scared, because maybe this time, I won’t catch up. Maybe this time, you won’t stop running and you won’t stop marching. You won’t forget the promises you’ve made and the pledges you said you’d keep. And if you don’t forget, if you don’t stand still, I know that I’ll no longer exist.
The “average Yalie” won’t be gone overnight. I won’t go down with a fight. Do you want to change enough so that you march until your legs give out? Even when you’re tired, even when you have finals coming up? Even when no one is watching, and even when everyone else is drained? Because that’s the only way you’ll ever get away from me.
But if we become complacent in all that has already been accomplished, I’ll be back. And when you look in the mirror, maybe not today or tomorrow, but maybe in a week or maybe in a month, you’ll see me once again.
Leo Kim is a junior in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .