You may have noticed the newly painted rainbow crosswalk right outside of Maggie’s Café. Lewis & Clark students, in collaboration with the Center for Social Change and Community Involvement, volunteered their time to paint the road in their attempt to support LGBTQ+ students on campus. But what does this actually do? I think that the crosswalk helps LGBTQ+ students because it reminds them that this campus is a safe space.
The symbolism of flags and how they are used is important not only to show our pride in the countries or communities we are part of, but how they could be used as a conduit for politics. The pride flag in front of Maggie’s is not a representation of our college’s politics, but more like a welcome mat for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I would be writing a different piece if instead a Trump flag or even an American flag was painted in its place, as those are used almost exclusively in the context of conservative political agendas and hate these days. The pride flag creates community and lets others know, whether it is flying in the air, stuck on the back of someone’s laptop or painted on the ground, that members of that community are welcome and represented. So personally, I do not see this as a performative attempt to support LGBTQ+ students, but as a way to remind students who are part of the community that despite hate from the outside world, they have a safe place on campus.
However, there are other students at this school who hold a different view. They see this crosswalk as a weak attempt for LC to show that they really care about the LGBTQ+ community. I can acknowledge that the timing is a little suspicious. Is it a coincidence that this was painted right before Pioneer Preview Day and tours on campus increased? Nonetheless, we should still give props to the students of The Center and the Queer Student Union for their efforts, and not let LC take credit for this in the name of “performative activism.” President Wim Wiewel was not the one out there on his hands and knees painting the crosswalk and wiping the sweat off his brow, leaving streaks of rainbow on his face.
It was students who organized and devoted themselves to this project as a way to show their pride. It is hard to appreciate little wins such as this, especially in such an inclusive environment. Since a great number of our school’s population would consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community, I understand the frustration of our school not showing continual pride. But we should not let our reservations about the school’s political agenda ruin or change our perspective on this beautiful piece of representation.
As a queer woman it feels nice to be able to walk across the street on my way to get my oat milk latte and be reminded that there is a community here that deals with a lot of the same struggles with their identities. I hope that at the sight of the rainbow crosswalk you smile rather than sneer because in the end, whether you think it is performative or not, the crosswalk is a positive addition to this place we all call home.