What does the latest racist incident say about Trinity? A Response from Professors
Perhaps you are not aware that many students of color are deeply distressed
and intensely angry about this latest racist incident. They do not believe
that these are isolated incidents of bad behavior that indicate nothing
broader or deeper about the College. What they now say to us, and have said
over the years, is that these incidents are simply the public face of an
atmosphere of insult and denigration that they must deal with as they live
and work on our campus day in and day out. Their experience is that racial
bigotry and racism are pervasive. They want their experiences on this
campus to be acknowledged and taken seriously.
Such sentiments are shared by many women on campus and by many gay and
lesbian students on campus, who feel that acts of sexual violence, misogyny
and homophobia/heterosexism are routinely dismissed. A culture of sadism is
allowed to proceed as if it were the rites of passage for some students.
These too often forgiven students are the subjects, who are allowed to
objectify others. This must not be permitted.
While our student of color and others are certainly pleased to know that the
perpetrators of these racist incidents are punished when they are known, our
sense is that they feel that such punishment addresses symptoms and not
causes and constitutes failure of the College to confront openly and
publicly the prospect, that is very real for them, that some sort of
sickness pervades our student culture. When they say, to us and to others,
that the College does not take these matters seriously, we believe that this
is what they mean and we do not doubt their sincerity. And if we do not
take the wider questions of social sadism (misogyny and homophobia)
seriously, it is unlikely that we are addressing the core problems.
Decisively following our institutional protocols for responding to bad
conduct, while absolutely appropriate, is insufficient. What about the
culture of our College enables a student, likely a very bright student who
has been taught here and elsewhere about the evils of racism and other forms
of intolerance, to believe that throwing beer and hurling racist insults is
okay? That this is about that particular student is very true but what is
it about Trinity as an institution that gave him the sense that he could do
this and then walk away as if nothing untoward had been done? What does the
fact that a student like this feels entitled to behave as he has say about
the nature of Trinity as an institution? What have we been collectively
blind to that we need to acknowledge and address? These are the kinds of
questions that we believe that our students of color and other students wish
to see the College discuss and do so openly, honestly, and intensively.
We believe that we must begin to ask these questions. If we do not, then we
are guilty of dismissing the experiences of our students of color, and of
all our students.
However, we do not need another report. Many have been written over the
years. Instead we believe that the College needs to review the many
proposals to address these matters that have been made and to explain which
ones have been implemented successfully, which have failed, and which have
been passed over or ignored.
We have supported efforts of the College to recruit students of color and
have encouraged students of color to avail themselves of a Trinity
education. The status quo makes it impossible for us to continue to do
this. Indeed, we may find ourselves having to tell prospective minority
students that Trinity is not the place for them.
Another cycle of outrage and return to the status quo is unacceptable. And,
the College¹s response must not be limited to these last few weeks of the
academic year. It must extend into next year and beyond and given the
highest possible priority.
If you share our concerns, please do not remain silent. Let our
administration, our faculty colleagues, and our students know this. The
College’s Mission Statement calls on us to confront “parochialism and
prejudice.” Now is the time to do so!
Please feel free to add your name to the list if you are agree with
the views expressed in this letter. As of 1AM on Monday, over 85 faculty members have signed in support.
Also, response from Professor Kassow: here