One of my roommates has a political ideology that I find abhorrent. It’s racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc. I would say that she’s a good person other than this, but I’m not so sure.
I’ve given up on trying to change her mind that other people’s lives have value. It’s just not personal enough to warrant a room change request. How do I cope until the end of the year when I no longer have to live with this person?
Sincerely, Roommate to a Bigot
Dear Roommate to a Bigot,
You made a good decision to stop arguing with your roommate. It’s a hard lesson, but bigots won’t change their mind. In fact, I think the more you push someone to change their opinion the more they’ll want to stay the same. Just know that you should feel sorry for your roommate because they are missing out on a beautiful part of the world because of her fear of others. Until she is able to accept other people, her world will remain a very small, lonely place.
But this isn’t about your roommate accepting people. It’s about how you can live with someone so hateful. It’s a shame that bigotry isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of situation. But it’s not, and as much as I would love to, I can’t give you a clean cut answer. Instead, the only thing I can offer you is a “choose your own adventure” type of solution.
If you are any sort of minority, I don’t have to explain how bigotry affects a person. I lost my right to be angry because of my skin color. The ability to be physically close with any of my friends because of my sexuality. For awhile, I lost my confidence and the ability to stand up for myself in the way that I used to. Which is why if you are a minority in any way, I suggest you leave your dorm.
You said that your roommate’s comments aren’t bothering you personally, but you want to analyze your reasons for this. Are you really unbothered? And if so, why? I used to be afraid to tell my friends when they were acting homophobic, bigoted or racist. But then I realized that my comfortability in a situation was more important than their hateful speech. I think you should realize this too.
Minority status aside, I think that you have to do something about your roommate. If you can handle conflict, confront your roommate head on. Talk about what type of comments you would and wouldn’t allow in your room. Make a plan if you bring people who are within a minority to visit. Or even people who would speak up against your roommate if they heard an off-the-cuff comment.
You don’t want to walk on eggshells if someone who would be offended by your roommate stops for a visit. The fact of the matter is that your roommate doesn’t have to be an active bigot whenever she enters a room. Tell her that she needs to calm down when you are present because it makes you uncomfortable.
If this doesn’t work, talk to your resident adviser. Their whole job is to be nonjudgmental (but rest easy, they are more likely on your side) and having a neutral party would be helpful. When you meet with the RA, be clear that you are not comfortable with the way that your roommate is speaking.
When you all meet up, tell your roommate that you are uncomfortable and you refuse to listen to her hate speech any more. Don’t leave the conversation until you have a solution or a date for another mediation. Then keep up on your roommate and make sure she follows through.
If you don’t like conflict, keep your headphones in when you are inside your dorm. Slowly filter yourself out of conversations and make sure that you check out of the conversation whenever she gets a little too bigoted for comfort. Remember that your roommate is a person that you life with, not someone that you have to be friends with or even talk to.
If you don’t want to confront your roommate, make them a small part of your life. When I had roommate problems, I changed the relationship I had with my dorm. It became less of a home and more of a place where I could recharge, eat for a second and go on my merry way. I know that it’s rough not being able to hang out in your room as much as you like. But it’s the easiest way to avoid your roommate’s nasty comments without conflict.
If these solutions don’t work, you need an escape plan. From now on, write everything that the roommate says to make you uncomfortable. Make sure that you write down the date, time and the situation that they were speaking in. The more details that you have on the page the better. When you have a significant amount of evidence, go to housing.
The fact of the matter is that Rowan doesn’t want anyone to live with a bigot. It’s bad press and it’s an unsafe environment for mental health. Tell housing that you are living in an environment that makes you uncomfortable and is affecting your mental health.
No, you don’t want a mediation. No, you don’t want to talk about it to your roommate. No, you don’t think you can live with it. You want out and are prepared to move your things as soon as possible. Don’t leave until they switch you out or housing is prepared to work with you. You deserve to live in a safe environment. Make sure that the powers that be give this to you. Good luck Roommate to a Bigot. I believe in you.
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