Opinion | Op-eds

Choosing not to support marginalization of minority groups through illustration

As an artist for Spectator, I sometimes have to illustrate pieces laced with unrecognized privilege. I’ve drawn for articles that fetishize poverty in Spanish Harlem and pieces that depict the “Columbia experience” as entirely universal to its student body. I’ve also illustrated for authors who have complained that “their privilege excludes them from conversation.” As a result, I, a low-income, Afro-Latina, first-generation American woman, feel alienated in my own community. This is not to say that Spec’s contributors aim to drown out the voices of the marginalized—I believe most have good intentions and hope to create a forum of expression safe for all identities. But intention is irrelevant when people of marginalized identities feel the ever-present divide reinforced.

I love illustrating for Spectator, but it’s time I decide where to draw the line (pun intended) for which pieces I choose to illustrate. I often wonder whether the larger community knows that an illustration doesn’t necessarily condone the views in the opinion piece—or perhaps my work to them implies a woman of color’s approval of these thoughts. It is due to my uncertainty of how those outside of Spectator understand the distinction between the writer’s and artist’s opinion that I can’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable allowing my name to visually represent and defend the very privileges that I myself lack.

For an institution that claims to foster the most diverse, international community, Columbia often lacks this inclusion. Instead, my experience is much like one that James Baldwin describes: “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” When discussing issues of race or gender in classes like Contemporary Civilization, I become incredibly frustrated at the lack of empathy or value given to the actual, tangible experiences of those of marginalized identities. I have had to leave class because my rage brought on tears. 

But that is not an isolated incident. The first of the “Our Blue” videos, meant to represent Columbia students as a whole, largely excluded Black and Latino students (of which I am both). So is it really so hard to empathize with my rage when I have to depict sweeping generalizations about “the typical Columbia experience” or the “silencing of the white, straight, male”? It should not be difficult to understand why being told that I—as a person whose identities are time and time again excluded from conversation—am the part of the problem of marginalization makes me and so many others so damn angry. Is it so hard to understand why I would want to actively reject that form of thought as the norm?

Many of you are thinking: “Reverse racism!” “Political correctness!” “I don’t have bad intentions!” But if we want to actively foster a diverse and inclusive community, then there is no excuse for not acknowledging the anger of those who are marginalized. There is no excuse for not taking a step back to allow members of these groups to address the issue of communication as they see fit. There is no excuse for not being humbled by or grateful for a reminder of your privilege.

I don’t want to stop illustrating for Spectator. Doing so seems antithetical to promoting the very sense of inclusion I so desperately crave. However, I can no longer ignore the relationship between a piece and its illustration. Many will argue that this is a very minimal relationship, that there are more important contributions that could be made toward my efforts of achieving equality for all. But I see its effects portrayed in the quality of my illustrations. It’s the small things, the subliminal expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., that shape a person’s perceptions of self-worth, the extent to which they believe they are equal to others, the day-to-day challenges they face in reminding themselves what it means to be an equally valued member of our society—if they can even claim to know what that experience is. It’s seeing my work next to articles that trivialize my own experience that force me to again consider the veil I was born with.

I will be more assertive. I will refuse to contribute to pieces that challenge my right to feel included or my anger in feeling lesser. This seems to me a better way to communicate across the divide. My assertion protects those with whom I disagree from inadvertently misrepresenting their views and from having poor-quality illustrations. After all, even the most blatant support of ostracization needs to be properly represented—otherwise, it cannot be challenged.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in political science. She is an illustrator for Spectator’s opinion section.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Dunni posted on

Thank you for writing this, Darializa! It's important and so well-articulated.

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Evan Drewry posted on

Na! this is uninformed, useless crap that should never have been published!!!!!!!!!! Get off ur high horse and stop the fuckin white shaming......... u have no "right" to cultural identity and u have no right to "fit in"......... your identity belongs to YOU not your RACE, and ESPECIALLY at columbia you have PLENTY of opportunities to insert yourself into conversations you are not a part of (or feel "excluded" from LOL). Try being POSITIVE about your identity and your personal experience. Leaving a classroom in a fit of rage over being "marginalized", etc. is just really immature and will not get you anywhere........ not cool

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Anonymous posted on

What a steaming load of bullshit. This campus panders incessantly to skin color and gender diversity you can't tolerate even a few disgustingly humble dissents from the circlejerk. But I am sure that you will win: your last sentence is absolutely correct, and the impossibility of challenging the privilege dogma (I would be viciously ostracized if I made this comment without anonymity)--the social crap that forms your entire defense--will ensure its domination. In 30 years when we erase the nasty evil white men from the facade of Butler (and our classrooms) perhaps I will be the one who finds reason to cry.

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Yeah, right. posted on

Talk about false outrage, a sense of entitlement, and denial. Your grievances are wholly imagined, and your statement is errant and offensive. I feel sorry for you and that state of fake persecution you claim. Get over it.

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Joe Brown posted on

"I would be viciously ostracized if I made this comment without anonymity."

Dude, just admit you don't have the balls.

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Anonymous posted on

this is wonderful!!

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Anonymous posted on

Racial discrimination is not egalitarianism. It does not end or combat marginalization. There is not one shred of evidence that it has done anything in this front.

Instead of repeating the same ideas that have not accomplished anything, let's focus on trying to find new ones that work. Most of the people you have singled out have been struggling, admittedly in very naive ways, to contribute to this issue. Unlike those attempting to produce original thought, you take the assumptions of a certain branch of study as fact, and come out in favor of racial discrimination. The spec comments of those articles follow the same line of thinking.

This is reductionism at its worst. Sickening ideology, with no empirical basis.

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Oh my god posted on

Darializa, can you please stop whining about privilege for once? Literally. This is becoming a habit.

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Evan Drewry posted on

Lmao ␟␟␟␟␟

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Darializa posted on

Stuntin' is a habit. Get like me.

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Regina P. posted on

Are you sure there's anything literal about that, dumbass? Did you even read the article? Try focusing on improving your literacy before entering such debate. People like you bog down intellectual conversation with their inane chatter, and senseless persecutions of the character of their fellow students. Why don't you attempt to write an article half as decent, so you can leave your mark, instead of attempting to belittle others? For the love of God, have we gotten to a place where the desire for equality is frowned upon? What a twisted fuck. Run along now.

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Latin@ posted on

Yeah, I have to say I'm kind of sick of this sort of article circulating on the Spec's Opinion page.

There is a lot to be said about the ways in which minorities are marginalized on this campus, be they straightforward or subtle. However, there's a particularly dogmatic, loud, and quite frankly, ridiculous cadre of people that have co-opted the social theories that explain this marginalization to the point of rendering these theories trivial.

Why do I think this? I mean. Shouldn't I as a Latin@ be applauding (or, as seems to be the norm, writing 'snaps') Darializa's article? No.

At no point in this article does Darializa make a serious attempt at explaining why these articles are problematic. They're written off as self-evident examples of marginalizing writing (which, sorry, is just not the case, especially when it comes to Erik Campano's article on sexual assault - you simply cannot have an absolutely intersectional discussion on sexual assault in 2000 words or less, and to assert that the article is exclusionary as a result is ludicrous. The fact an article is not about your self-identified subgroup by itself is not an affront).

What we get instead is a piece where Darializa leveraged her identity and her feelings in lieu of an argument as to why she will refuse to illustrate for pieces she does not agree with on a visceral level. If she doesn't like their slant, fine, but she should recognize her own biases for what they are instead of unilaterally, dogmatically deciding these articles are affronts to our shared race/ethnicity. It's intellectually dishonest and I'm not having it.

I hate this because it makes us all Latin@s look like a bunch of whiny little weaklings when lived experience has shown, time and time again, that we most certainly aren't. We have the capacity to speak for ourselves, to make intellectually rigorous arguments, to be heard, to COMMAND respect instead of passively-aggressively asking for it or invoking 'privilege' and 'identity' as buzzwords that will validate our opinion every single time we choose to disagree with a white male American.

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Evan Drewry posted on

PREACH

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Darializa posted on

I pointed out Erik's article not because I thought it was silencing women but because I lived how he reminds us that sexual assault affects so many of us and we are passivly if not actively silenced when it comes to that. I helped and pushed for Erik's article to run. I ASKED to illustrate his article. I guess I can see why it could be taken as a comparison as opposed to contrast to the previous hyperlink about women in the core but my intention was that it be a stark contrast. I'm sorry you feel that me explaining how I feel as a result if my experience makes you feel weak but I genuinely think I am demanding respect when I ask that my first hand experience be considered as a form of knowledge. Furthermore, the point of this piece was not to address why the other pieces were problematic in themselves. It's about why, I, as an illustrator, am uncomfortable with what illustrating for them can mean.

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