When I was a child, I used to write short stories about girls like my friends and me. As I grew older and read more books, I realized that the names I used weren’t ones used in books published by others. So, I changed the names of my friends and characters to be more like those names. My stories were about Gwendolyns and Lucys. My stories were no longer about Saras without the “h” or Rominas or even about Adrianas.
What’s happening on our campus right now is a reshifting of focus. If you are an indigenous, queer, black, Latina, Asian, mixed woman or gender-nonconforming individual at Yale, the story of this week is about you. We have the eyes of this world. We have power. This is uncomfortable for people who prefer for the stories to be about them. These people want to hear stories from voices that are familiar.
I consider myself a radical intersectional feminist. Many of my closest friends are women of color. Despite the diversity of my own circle, in this past week I was blown away by the amount of pain and trauma that people at this school were willing to share. This is the truth, and it is a truth that many of us did not know.
At this historical moment, we must take it upon ourselves to do the job of truth-telling. We should engage with reporters if we feel safe enough to do so. We should write our own stories for wide audiences. You should advocate for your story to be told the way you want it to be told. Whatever you do: try your best to be heard, and heard accurately.
I edited my high school newspaper for four years, an extracurricular that’s common among many of Yale’s admits. I intended to pursue journalism until the tragic murder of a close friend disclosed the most hideous sides of the media. When the Miami Herald published a photograph of me crying at my friend’s funeral, I was filled with disgust. The world had taken one of the most private, grief-stricken moments of my life and plastered it onto the Internet. To me, this was unforgivable.
At the time of his death, I didn’t know how to communicate with my closest friends about the tragedy, but national media outlets insisted on pushing the most sensational aspects of a complex, traumatic story: they wanted to catch readers and viewers. They defined my friend by his famous death instead of his humble, brilliant and short life. This experience discouraged me from reading magazines or newspapers. I drew myself inward and my world shrunk. My nickname growing up was CNN because of how often I watched that channel, but not even Anderson Cooper could get me to watch the news. I was angry. I was exhausted. And I was sick of watching incomplete narratives.
Three years later, I am able to engage with the media again, but my relationship is layered and complicated. At this moment, while the outside media (both national and international) are directing their lenses at Yale, we have to play an active role. I acknowledge the News’ central role in communicating the reality of this historic moment. I choose to write for the News because I know it is the most read platform on campus and I know my message will reach a broad audience — even one that disagrees with me. In many ways, that is the audience I am targeting.
But all publications contribute essential testimony in our efforts to understand the breadth of student lives and experiences, especially in recent weeks. I encourage you to look beyond the News toward publications such as DOWN, an online platform for students of color, and Broad Recognition, the online feminist magazine at Yale. Pay special attention to your social media accounts. The news is around you. You don’t need to know what a “lede” is to know how news matters.
Oppression succeeds when the marginalized remain silent. This University’s history stems from the broader narrative of white men who colonized this continent. In recent decades, the University has made efforts to develop a more inclusive student body, and those students are reacting to this school’s failures to wholly address its place in history. This is a moment where we can retell that story. We must react. We must write. We must speak. We must use our own names.
I have realized over the years that while my discomfort is valid, I have the power to tell my own stories. Writing is the only way I know how to heal from moments of profound pain.
Women of color: Today I am asking you to speak and to write.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column usually runs on Thursdays. Contact her at email@example.com .