I am angry this week. I am angry because an app called Yik Yak is causing a lot of people pain they don’t need.
For those unfamiliar with it, Yik Yak is like a fusion of Twitter and the short-lived OWU Confessions. Users can post anonymous messages that others can see based on their location. Because OWU is such a concentrated area, if you get onto Yik Yak on campus the posts are most likely from students.
I’ve heard many say it’s good cure for boredom. It’s also a cesspool, a place where people can voice their most odious thoughts without consequence.
Yik Yak posts have referred to the House of Black Culture, one of few designated safe spaces for students of color, as a “crack house”; equated favoriting a tweet to an invitation for sex; and scrutinized international students for doing things domestic students do regularly simply because they’re “foreign.” Not to mention the post that said, “Let’s be real we all hate black people don’t we?”
I could go into every reason why these — and probably a good 75 percent of OWU’s Yik Yak posts — are socially harmful and have tangible deleterious effects on the people they’re about. I’m not going to because the message is out there. People who have directly experienced the oppression these posts perpetuate have told us about the power words have do harm and condone violence in myriad settings. But apparently it hasn’t sunk in.
How many times do we have to have these conversations?
How many times do people have to publicly recall their experiences with racism on campus and in Delaware, or with sexual violence at the hands of other students, for us to understand that these problems are not amorphous or external to our community?
For how many events about race or gender or multiculturalism must faculty offer extra credit for everyone here to understand that saying these things is not okay, and that removing your name from them doesn’t absolve you of your complicity in oppression?
Tell me, how many times? Because I am tired of seeing and hearing and reading these things, and I don’t even have to directly deal with their social, physical and psychological effects on a daily basis.
Until it sinks in, for every post about how women who have a lot of sex are undesirable, a woman who’s been raped is told she had it coming. For every time the House of Black Culture is called a “crack house,” a black student is called the n-word while walking down the street. For every time an international student is scrutinized for going about their life, one is isolated by a friend group.
There is no excuse for this sort of behavior within our community. It is not funny. It does psychological harm and creates an avenue for other kinds of violence.
There are some concessions to be made. Yik Yak users consoled someone who posted that they were having suicidal thoughts. Some posts combat the vitriol. And some students may not have had the opportunity to learn about these things for one reason or another. I was there once, too.
But I learned, and the fact is that there are so many ways to learn within and without the classroom. There is no reason not to take advantage of them.
If you didn’t know the kinds of things that go on Yik Yak hurt people, now you know. Delete the app. Don’t jump into the cesspool. Don’t give any merit or attention to marginalizing speech.
This won’t make the verbal and physical violence disappear. But we can no longer go without condemning it. Enough is enough.