Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Collegian or its editorial board.
We have all heard the term “snowflake,” as it is thrown about often and used as an insult in today’s political conversations. Snowflakes are considered people that can’t look past their emotions or own personal views and those that get easily offended instead of looking at facts.
Millennials have been titled ‘generation snowflake‘ and there is some truth to that. Millennials have a hard time handling views that differ from their own and have petty grievances that go as far as boycotting certain companies because they don’t like their commercials.
This term, while being partially accurate, is also extremely dangerous, because it is dismissive of actual offenses and microaggressions. The phrase ‘sensitive snowflakes’ is used like a curtain to hide behind because as long as no one is being overtly racist or blatantly mean, then they can’t be blamed for offending someone else. This is wrong, because while the line between what is overly sensitive and actual offensive varies, there are some basic notions our society generally agrees upon as being inappropriate and susceptible subjects. Race, sexuality, and religion are considered hypersensitive subjects because of the historical significance that each of them have had in this country.
When Trump calls a black supporter “My African American,” the African American community isn’t being “too sensitive” because it’s not politically correct, they are upset about the decades of being owned by white people and being seen as property, and to have this same notion of ownership being displayed by former presidential candidate. The friend that got upset about people saying “that exam raped me” isn’t being too sensitive because he or she doesn’t like rape jokes, they’re being empathetic towards sexual assault survivors who probably don’t think jokes or comments like “grab them by the pussy” are funny.
While millennials notoriously complain about iPhone charger cords breaking easily and being offended about the design on Starbucks’ cups does qualify as being oversensitive crybaby snowflakes, it only applies when our generation gets caught up in minor first-world problems.
Being an African American woman, I’m not being a “snowflake” when I get uncomfortable about white people dropping the N-word. Even if the word was said without a hard ‘R’ and in a jokingly fashion, saying ‘my nigga’ as a white person is still racist because historically it was created in a racial context. Yes, black people say it, but that’s because it’s in a different context and is meant as a way that connects marginalized people, especially during the horrific experiences some endured together. Said out of that context, it is a word white Americans used as an insult to Blacks. I am not being sensitive, I am being offended. The same sentiment applies in many different subjects that are often brushed off.
This is an example of a microaggression. Most people don’t even know what a microaggression is, which is even worse. They are bigotry personified, and considered the new form of racism. The definition is: “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” I hear microaggression comments every day from “you don’t sound black” to asking non-white students “do you speak English” or assuming they are foreign. It may not seem like a big deal to white people, but to minorities it keeps us stereotyped and assumes we are not assimilated citizens, creating a divide between us and the majority.This is something to be sensitive about.
Calling someone out or simply informing them that these comments are offensive not only makes people get defensive, but causes the person being offended to get hit with the ‘you are just overly sensitive’ label. It defers the blame of whoever is being offensive and ignorant to the person being offended by saying ‘it’s your fault what I said offended you because you are too sensitive,’ making it hard for the offender to understand when they might have crossed the line, and has actually said something racist or flat-out fucked up.
I agree that it can be hard to even make a comment about the weather without seeming to stir someone else up, and it’s impossible to simply enjoy your Starbucks drink without people complaining about the color or design on the cups. While we are a generation that celebrates being petty and argumentative, we are not a generation of people being too sensitive. Millennials are just more socially aware and accepting of cultural and lifestyle differences, and we care more about these differences than generations before us.
It’s not an argument about being more politically correct and not trying to hurt people’s feelings, but supporting the fundamental value of respect and owning up for when we are being rude or ignorant.
So next time someone gets offended or upset about something, think before disregarding them as simply being sensitive. Racism and sexism are things we should be sensitive about. Dropping derogatory terms like ‘fag’ and ‘nigga’ are things we should be sensitive about. Making a rape jokes or the belittlement of sexual violence is something we should be sensitive about. Insulting someone’s religion are things we should be sensitive about. Sensitivity and care towards these issues does not make you a snowflake, it makes you a decent person.
Jayla Hodge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and online at @Jaylahodge