I am a proud alumnus of the University of Minnesota Duluth. My time there helped shape me as a thinker and indigenous academic. UMD was a place where I could be openly Anishinaabe and proud of my tribal background. Because of who I am and what I do, my work is intrinsically tied with oppressed and vulnerable populations.
It is because of this that I was so dismayed and shocked to see a fellow UMD student callously and ruthlessly attacking her fellow students in a "Local View" column published in the News Tribune on Oct. 3. It was headlined, "From one millennial to another: Lose the safe spaces."
The column's writer, Kesley Arhart, a communication sciences and disorders student and a member of the UMD College Republicans, invoked the sacrifices of our grandparents and great grandparents in fighting to create a better life for those who came after them, and then she admonished "crybabies." She clearly ignored the fact that even after the sacrifices that our "Greatest Generation" made, there were people in our country who have had their fundamental rights and their dignity stripped away from them, even up to the present day. Should they continually accept hatred and bigotry?
Yes, as Arhart wrote, reality does exist; we do live in the real world. And the real world needs to be one where people should be free to be themselves, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious creed. The real world needs to be a place where we respect one another.
College students do face a variety of pressures, but their own identities as individuals should not be a source of pressure for them. If Arhart feels so strongly that there should not be "safe spaces" on college campuses, I would gladly invite her to participate in campus-wide dialogues that help provide relief from this pressure, rather than writing an attack piece.
From one millennial to another: Rid yourself of your privilege and open your eyes to the diversity of views around you.
Deondre Smiles graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2016 with a degree in global indigenous studies. He currently is a second-year doctoral student studying geography at the Ohio State University. He also is an enrollee of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.