If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last 5-10 years it’s that there is nothing between the American coasts that will not be targeted for outrage and offense. Cultural appropriation, microaggression, transhopia, male privilege, white privilege…these are all terms meant to quell intelligent debate and shut down alternate opinions before they can be admitted into public discourse.
Nothing is safe, and news out of Claremont, CA confirms that. The latest outrage? Hoop earrings. Redstate’s Susan Wright covered the bizarre story earlier this week.
In a nutshell, students at Pitzer College (Claremont Colleges) recently spray-painted a message on a campus wall warning white women that their jewelry choices are racially insensitive and thus invalid. The campus newspaper The Claremont Independent ran the story.
A wall on the side of a dormitory at Pitzer College devoted to unmoderated free speech through art (colloquially named “the free wall”), was recently painted by a group of Latino students who wrote the message, “White Girl, take off your [hoop earrings]!!!”
When one white student expressed confusion about the message, Alegria Martinez (PZ ’18) – a Pitzer College Resident Assistant (RA) and active member of the “Latinx Student Union” – responded in an email thread sent to the entire student body: “[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture. The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.”
Readers, it is rare that I am rendered speechless, but I hardly know where to start with this.
The “free wall” is hilariously named and that the girls (I can’t call them women, they don’t seem mature enough to have earned the moniker) chose to use that wall to make their point about what certain people of certain races are allowed to wear and do is just the cherry on top of the outrage sundae.
Of course there are all kinds of fashion developments from every culture and nation that bleed into others as travel and communication have advanced over the millennia. Even if these girls were right about hoop earrings and their cultural representation (they are not, by the way), so what? People have admired cultural expressions of others and adopted some for their own use since the dawn of time. It doesn’t surprise me that these girls have never heard the phrase “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” I think that would require a certain level of intelligence and cultural awareness that they don’t seem to possess.
Of course the email response was stereotypically “privileged college millennial” speak. That is, using way too many words to express a very simplistic point of view – “I don’t like it when you bite my style. ”
That anyone would take the time to fuss over this in such a public way on a college campus is indicative of a much larger problem we face in this country. The youth who will grow up to lead this nation are so comfortable and pampered that they have no real concept of “struggle” or value. Having had so much provided for them by others, they’ve never had to navigate real oppression and racism; and in today’s American society you’re no one until someone hates you. If you’re a member of the privileged class (and if you’re at college with the time to do this sort of thing, you are) there is no other way to prove your value in modern terms than to assert your oppression.
Hoop earrings might seem like a ridiculous hill to die on but for students who have never been challenged with alternative viewpoints and have never learned the art of thoughtful communication and tolerance it isn’t just a hill , it’s a mountain- a mountain made of iPhones and laptops and the checkbooks of well-meaning parents across the country.
The irony of this whole thing is that these girls are chastising a fashion choice as the tool of “white privilege” but their complaints alone are really the result of their own extensive American privilege.
Parents, pay attention. When you give your kids everything while requiring nothing in return you create the vapid, self-centered, tone-deaf type of pseudo-adults that are so vividly embodied in the Pitzer girls’ temper tantrum on a “free speech” wall.