cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Sunday, November 22, 2015

On using privilege to combat racism: a love letter to #educolor, from an aspiring ally

It has been inspiring this past week to watch my young fellow Princetonians confront the legacy of institutional racism that is quite literally etched into stone at my well-intentioned, sometimes clueless, but deeply beloved-and-worth-improving Princeton (link).  Cornel West captured my feelings well with his support.  It is possible to love an institution and, because we love it, want it to grow and improve our society and our world.

It has also been quite moving to watch my Princeton classmate, University President Chris Eisgruber, as he wrestles with these issues in the public eye, working through layer upon layer of unconscious white privilege and commitment to anti-racist education. It has been impressive to see him come through it with open-mindedness, wholeheartedness, and a willingness to listen deeply, responding with integrity, and widening our commitment to inclusiveness at an institution that has not always supported inclusion. This is what I consider to be "Princeton in the Nation's Service."

So it was utterly disheartening to wake up this morning to a hate-filled screed on our Princeton Class of 1983 Facebook page from a different classmate of ours — a white woman who is a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. She was a leader at one of the hedge funds that nearly destroyed our country's economy. She and those she worked with have never been called to account for their crimes.

But first, a warning. Please note in advance that I strongly condemn this kind of hate speech. But I believe that hate speech needs to be called out because I believe it has no place in the power structure, much less in civil discourse. I also believe hate speech deserves no shielding or privacy. I wanted to capture these publicly-expressed pieces of hate speech before she could think better of it and delete them.

She wrote, "Churchill: 'You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.'"

The she linked to the following truly reprehensible article (WARNING: this article contains contemptuous and morally disgusting attitudes that are blind to their own privilege. You may be as sickened as I was when you read it. I strongly condemn this hate speech): hate speech article link

Another classmate pushed back against this right away, writing,
as Eisgruber said “we should be aiming for a campus in which all students feel equally welcomed.” Commentary like the above and related blog posts are unwelcoming and also inaccurate (for instance saying all the students protesting at PU were black). There are many students, and people, of diverse colors and backgrounds, who support taking a hard look at campus life and assumptions. At PU there is a high value for tradition and a high value for making changes that make the educational experience the best that it can be.
But this woman kept on going with her racist rants. She lashed back.
I am quite prepared to believe that the BLM hysterics come in all colors. Their insistence on Maoist reeducation of their peers is a uniform pink.
And further:
Nothing says "welcome" like a mandatory Maoist reeducation program. Unless it's a building that you cannot access due to the color of your skin. Not to mention the black students who may not want to self-segregate -- if there is a component of pure evil to this profoundly racist and anti-educational movement, it is the pressure it will put on sane black kids to conform to the madness of the Maoists.
I could not believe my eyes, except that I spent four years with this woman and her entitled, privileged bullshit, so this was not the first of her objectionable ravings that I have been subjected to. Still, we are supposed to be older and wise. But apparently not everybody is actually committed to growing up.

The classmate who pushed back against her ravings wrote back:
That's your view and I am unlikely to influence it. However, I am quite prepared to think that the outcome will be orange and black, and not pink. And that there are apparently "hysterics" in various quarters. Just sayin.
This racist with a Princeton education could not stop herself, so she went on:
Except that if you're orange you can't get into the new "cultural" Affinity building.
And on:
Maybe Princeton should be renamed "Wilson University" to honor the new segregationism.
I couldn't take it any more, so I posted a reply objecting to her hate speech. But predictably, she screeched right back at me:
I hope that nobody would be surprised to find me pro-First Amendment and anti-Maoist. But you are welcome to a participation trophy anyway.
This is the voice of someone who benefited from a world-class education, as well as from our open, inclusive, and welcoming immigration policy. It causes me a deep and lasting sadness that these are the values she took away from these uniquely American opportunities and institutions I hold so dear. 

When people reveal their true values in public, it is important to document and witness their doing so. It is also important not to let this kind of evil go unanswered. The witnessing function is one of the most important roles of an ally. So I am doing my best to do so here, however imperfectly and stupidly I may be doing it. I continue to grow and learn from my #educolor colleagues on Twitter and on blogs. And I am training my students for their roles as the leaders of the rebel forces.

As the Buddha said, "Hatred never ceases through hatred but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law."

And as Michelangelo wrote on a scrap of paper left behind in his studio in the wobbly handwriting of his old age, "Ancora imparo" — "I am still learning."


  1. As the Buddha said, "Hatred never ceases through hatred but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law." really strikes me.

    Our sermon this morning on the Christ the King feast day was about how his way, too, is both not of this world and present now. We do not have to continue the cycle of violence, we have an out.

    It is amazing how this particular hate speech sounds like something out of 1950. I am glad we have lived long enough for it to be passe as well as wrong, but it also shows how long we have to go.

  2. I love the way in which Chris (Chris Eisgruber, Princeton '83 and President of the University) is modeling the ally's stance with an open letter to the whole Princeton community. The last two paragraphs of his letter make me hopeful about the university continuing to grow and learn and evolve:

    One of the most sensitive and controversial issues pertains to Woodrow Wilson’s legacy on the campus. As every Princetonian knows, Wilson left a lasting imprint on this University and this campus, and while much of his record had a very positive impact on the shaping of modern Princeton, his record on race is disturbing. As a University we have to be open to thoughtful re-examination of our own history, and I believe it is appropriate to engage our community in a careful exploration of this legacy. Since the Board of Trustees has authority over how the University recognizes Wilson, I have asked the Board to develop a process to consider this issue, and the Board has agreed to do so. The Board will form a subcommittee to collect information about Wilson’s record and impact from a wide array of perspectives and constituencies. This information will include a range of scholarly understandings of Wilson. Toward this end, the Board will solicit letters from experts familiar with Wilson, and it will make those letters public. The Board will also establish a vehicle to allow alumni, faculty, students, and staff to register their opinions with the subcommittee about Wilson and his legacy. In addition, members of the Board’s subcommittee will schedule visits to Princeton’s campus early in the spring semester to listen to the views of the University community, including its alumni. After assessing the information it has gathered and hearing the views of all parts of the Princeton community, the Board will decide whether there are any changes that should be made in how the University recognizes Wilson’s legacy.

    These are turbulent and demanding times, but if we engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversation they offer hope for real progress. The quest for a diverse and inclusive community has been among Princeton’s most important goals at least since the presidency of Bob Goheen ’40 *48, and we have come a long way. But we have not come far enough, and making further progress will require hard work and good will. I am confident that Princeton’s extraordinary community—on campus, and throughout the world—is up to the task.

  3. Also, I think that Einstein gets the last word on trolls here: