An Open Letter to the Wesleyan Community from Students of Color

The following is an open letter to the Wesleyan community from a group of students of color. It appeared earlier today on The Ankh‘s Facebook page and has been published here with these students’ permission. The views reflected here are the writers’ own.

photo by Jacob Seltzer ’17

To the Wesleyan Campus Community:

To be black in an anti-black society is to be a commodity fit for liquidation, it is to be already evidenced as not befitting of life, it is to live under surveillance and always positioned as a potential threat, it is living under the conditions of imprisonment (of our senses of self, expressions, bodies, gender articulations, and sexualities).

So when we say that Black Lives Matter, we are not implying that other lives do not matter. We are reaffirming our existence in a country that continues to do everything it can to demolish and obliterate black and brown lives. By speaking out against institutional, structural, and systemic racism, by affirming Black Lives Matter, we are liberating ourselves from these systems of oppression.

We do not have the time, nor luxury, to be caught up in this smokescreen of free speech. Let us be clear: this is not an issue of your free speech. This is an issue of our voices being silenced, our communities under attack. Free speech is not a one-dimensional highway—white, cisgender, heterosexual men are not the only ones with the right to free speech.

When students of color speak our lives into existence, our speech comes under attack. When we defend our lives, we are harassing you. When we demand safety, we are attacking you. Our unapologetic voices are deranged screams; our open hands are clenched fists; our cellphones, weapons, our pigment, targets.

Centering this conversation on free speech, without the context of the voices historically censored and misrepresented, is the very manifestation of systemic and structural racism that continues to silence and murder people of color.

Institutionalized racism is found in the media and the education system at large. One of the most dangerous lies of the century is that we live in a post-racial society. Institutionalized racism is not only present at Wesleyan University—it is festering in the DNA of our coded language. The Argus is an institution whose history of devaluing people of color in our community proves that it plays a role in the perpetuation of institutionalized racism.

Further, within the microcosm of Wesleyan University—the lack of response from the administration on behalf of concerned students of color is reprehensible, inexcusable and indicative of its role in supporting institutionalized racism. The administration only publicly acted in defense of a privileged voice.

White Press has not and will not work for black and brown people. White Protest has not and will not work for black and brown people.

Freedom of speech, in its popular understanding, does not protect Black Lives Matter advocates who are trying to survive in a racist world, but instead protects the belief systems of dominant people—despite the extent of their heightened ignorance.

The debate has become whether members of our community even deserve, not only to exist on this campus, but simply to live. By focusing on the freedom of speech instead of students’ lives and ability to safely exist on this campus, you are practicing censorship and you are partaking in racism.

This is yet another moment that defines our resilience as black and brown people. We remain hopeful that this will be an opportunity for growth and a reminder that there is much work to be done to ensure that this is an inclusive campus.

Signed,
A Group of Concerned and Unapologetic Students of Color

52 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Wesleyan Community from Students of Color

  1. Ralphiec88

    You only need to read this article to understand the challenges BLM faces from within. Confrontational activism can work, confrontation practiced by the hyperbolic and delusional undermines the credibility of the cause.

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  3. Nat Rev

    “To be black in an anti-black society is to be a commodity fit for liquidation …”

    In that case every inner city, populated almost exclusively by blacks, must be “anti-black” because those are the only places in the nation where blacks are a commodity fit for liquidation. And the liquidation is not being carried out by white cops, it’s being done by blacks.

    “A Group…” – who is incidentally too cowardly to be named – go get control of your own “community” and then we’ll talk. Until then, just have fun bleeding out in the streets.

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  5. Saybrugian Who Wants Answers

    This piece might have accomplished something if it had identified a single example – one way in which the University has questioned or debated the right of people of color “not only to exist on this campus, but simply to survive.” There is a huge audience, waiting, ready to recognize and address systemic racism and bigotry. But merely stating that this phenomenon exists, without providing concrete examples, is completely flawed and even counterproductive activism.

    Now, when people who are on the fence (or who merely are uninformed) read this piece, they do not see a reasoned argument. They do not see a single data point or piece of evidence. They do not see anything convincing. They see children – who attend one of the most privileged universities in the world – whining.

  6. Angrybellsprout

    I wonder if these idiots understand if things were nearly as bad as they pretend they are, they are free to leave whenever they want.

  7. Jack.Rayner

    Did I miss something? Are black folk at this school being rounded up and shot, or being loaded into train carts to be killed elsewhere?

    I don’t stay glued to the news, but I think I would’ve still heard a thing or two if black people were being exterminated like this whiny piece strongly asserts.

    Where are the corpses?

  8. Srimanthan Pramodan

    Free Speech is the foundation of any free system. That you are against it demonstrates YOU are not for freedom yourself. You want submission to your ideas and beliefs. Try again.

  9. Shogun1x

    You guys really disappoint me. Are you really so mentally fragile, so easily discouraged that any criticism at all is a grievous wound to you? Not agreeing 100% with everything the #BlackLivesMatter movement does isn’t necessarily racist. Hell, I don’t agree with them 100% and I’m black. If you want to disagree with Argus, disagree with them. Write your own article, no one’s stopping you. All I see is you trying to silence their speech, not the other way around. That fear you have of dissenting opinions is really weak. You guys need to sack up. Change doesn’t come easy, and things will only get worse if we throw a hissy fit anytime someone doesn’t immediately adopt all your policies and arguments. SMDH.

  10. Doug

    It’s quite unfortunate that the education these students have received is so defective that they think that freedom of speech is censorship and censorship is freedom of speech. It’s a pity that none of them have apparently ever read Orwell.

    1. Angrybellsprout

      More likely they read Orwell & Rand, and figured they had the right idea on how to get their beliefs forced upon others.

  11. WhiteRabbit3

    They seem to be saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to criticize them.

    It’s like a fish complaining about the dampness. Free speech is the very water in which Black Lives Matter swims. They drain the pool at their own peril.

  12. Some Guy

    “smokescreen of free speech. ”

    Oh, fuck off. If it weren’t for free speech, every abolitionist and civil rights leader would have been silenced, and slavery would still be the law of the land in the united states.

  13. Trajan Augustus

    The level of delusion in this article is incredible. The paranoid ranting about liquidation, oppression, etc is on par with the severest forms of schizophrenia. She is a student at an elite school yet is somehow the victim of discrimination? This talk about imprisonment and attempts to silence black and brown people is so over the top, so divorced from reality, that it defies any reasonable response, except to declare it worthless. From where do these ideas originate? It is impossible to believe the opinions expressed by author come from actual life experiences. There has to be an outside influence that is drilling these preposterous concepts into the minds of these students.

  14. HappyEskimo

    “The debate has become whether members of our community even deserve not only to exist on this campus but simply to live.”
    Where is this debate happening? In the magical land of Narnia, perhaps? Because it’s sure not happening here in this nation, the one which freely elected a black president over white candidates, twice.

    Nobody is trying to silence your voice. We just think that your voice is saying such stupid things that we can’t take you seriously, even when we try to. BLM is a classic example. Why would you call it by that name, unless you were implying we didn’t already know that? Why would you hector O’Malley for saying “All lives matter”? Why would you organize your movement around a lowlife who robbed a store and then attacked a police officer for no reason?

    It’s not your right we’re denying, it’s what your saying.

    “Our unapologetic voices are deranged screams”
    Sadly, this is the only sentence in your article that I find myself actually agreeing with.

    “White Press has not and will not work for black and brown people. White
    Protest has not and will not work for black and brown people.”
    Um, ever heard of Peter Buxton? President Eisenhower? You seem to have about as much to learn about history as you do about current events.

    1. Taquoshi

      Hold on there one second, Happy! Narnia is doing just fine without BLM, thank you very much.

      Maybe this is happening in Wesleyan-Alt-University, but us Narinians aren’t part of the problem.

        1. Taquoshi

          Unfortunately, I think that these kids are going to graduate with massive chips on their shoulders and a load of anger in their guts that will eat away at their souls.

          They talk about having their voices silenced. On another board, someone posted the figures from the NYC Health Department for the number of live black births and the number of black abortions in 2012 (31,000) and 2013 (29,000). There are a number of towns in the county where I live that have populations that are less than that.

          As of today, there were 373 murders in Chicago so far this year, most of whom were black. At the rate those murders are happening, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago topped 500 by the end of the year. Those voices have also been silenced. There are high schools in our nation that have student populations less than that.

          The students can blame whoever they way, but until they start dealing with reality, they are on a self-destructing path.

          1. pansycritter

            You are a very smart girl…I would want my children to know you. You have a very open and intelligent mind. God bless you.

            I can’t follow you so I had to improvise.

          2. Taquoshi

            Thank you for your kind words. I had to put the privacy filter on because I got trolled by some idiot who spent a lot of time and effort to down vote me over 90 of my up votes! I think he’s gone now, so I removed the privacy filter, in case you want to follow my postings. Thanks again.

    1. Angrybellsprout

      English is the language of the white oppressor meant to steal your culture & identity.

  15. BreadGod

    This article is rambling, nonsensical, filled with ridiculous logic, makes numerous absurd claims, and it reads like it was written by a whiny first worlder. You also seem to put a great deal of emphasis on safety. I’d advise you to read these words from Benjamin Franklin, but since he was a straight white male, you’ll probably just dismiss it outright.

  16. Emblematic

    Only a stupid person would think this verbose, pretentious anti-style of writing makes them sound intelligent.

    And so precious. So self-absorbed and so incredibly precious.

  17. Foolish Pride

    What’s really perverse (and ironically illiberal) is that a small group of minority individuals can determine that their views are the views of all non-whites.

  18. Jack Burton

    Tell you what. When BLM addresses the REAL problem of disproportionate black anti-social behavior, black crime and violence, and its white and Asian victims who are racially targeted, then I’ll listen to them.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/ColinFlaherty712

    In the United States in 2005, 37,460 white females were sexually assaulted or raped by a black man. 0-10 black women were raped by white men.

    Every day in the United States, over 100 white women are raped or sexually assaulted by a black man.

    Interracial rape is statistically 100% black men raping white women.

    http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=26368

    http://www.colorofcrime.com/2005/10/the-color-of-crime-2005/

    http://whitereference.blogspot.com/2008/05/so-you-thought-only-whites-were-serial.html

    http://www.amren.com/

    http://stuffblackpeopledontlike.blogspot.com/

    http://detroitisstillcrap.blogspot.com/

    https://violenceagainstwhites.wordpress.com

  19. yacrest

    Here’s a tip from a white cis male who survived EVERY encounter with the police: Don’t be a fucking idiot and you wont get shot.

  20. thinkfirst

    These people are a parody of themselves. Someone must think that using some nice vocabulary to spout this nonsense somehow makes it true. It does not. The claims made are ridiculous, the free speech assertions are illogical, and just generally this all just wreaks of “I have decided to be a victim and as such, I must be treated better than everyone else, and my opinions, beliefs, and feelings carry more weight – because I said so.” It’s a joke. Funny how a group so concerned about black lives, and so quick to make the claim that society writ large is out to literally murder them, have absolutely zero to say by the thousands of black lives that are actually taken at the hands of other black lives. Somehow those murders don’t matter to these people, they have nothing to say about them. My guess is because it’s pretty far fetched to try and make the argument that when a drug dealer kills a gangbanger in the south side of Chicago, it’s pretty hard to lay that killing at the hands of “white voices.” Though I am sure they will try. The movement is a hypocrisy, period point blank. And a wildly immature one at that.

    1. Taquoshi

      Let’s talk about silencing black voices.

      The body count in Chicago for September (which isn’t over yet…) is 57. 34 of the victims were black with 19 additional cases where the race was listed as “Other”. I’m not sure what group that may cover, since there were 3 Hispanic victims and 1 white victim also listed. DNAinfo.com lists a whopping total of 372 for the city so far this year. At the rate Chicago is going, they are going to top 500 in the final quarter.

      May God comfort the families of the victims.

  21. Jack Burton

    These people are pathologically delusional, mentally ill and promote nothing but pro-black, anti-white propaganda.

  22. LibertarianWeeaboo

    Oh get over yourselves pretentious whiny first world bitches and stop infringing on the freedom of others just because you have a persecution complex.

  23. Reythia

    Did you guys even READ the original article that theoretically prompted this? http://wesleyanargus.com/2015/09/14/of-race-and-sex/

    You might note the place where the author laid it out simply: “If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement, I cannot support the movement. And many Americans feel the same. I should repeat, I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists.”

    Sorry, but when BLM decides to do idiotic things like block the runners of a marathon from crossing the finish line (http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/09/26/black-lives-matter-plans-protest-at-twin-cities-marathon/), they’re not being responsible people speaking for their cause. They’re just being bullies.

    I’m all for reducing the very real problems of institutionalized, largely-unconscious racism and police brutality. YES. But you don’t do that by becoming an unruly mob who blocks innocent marathon runners, or by raising criminals up as heroes. You fix things by acting like mature, rational, impassioned adults. You work WITH those others who sympathize with you, rather than turn them against you via these childish tantrums.

  24. KiteFlyer89

    Jesus christ kids, sometimes people have different opinions than you. The editorial you’re complaining about was stupid, I agree, but the only reason to feel sympathetic to it is that this guy has absolutely every single right in the world to voice his opinion and a newspaper SHOULD be showing different points of view.

    Write a counterpoint editorial, write a blogpost, hand out pamphlets about the need for BLM, but this is the equivalent of a 6-year old’s hissy fit.

  25. POC not POS

    I’m a person of color and I’m sick of this hyperbole. You know nothing about politics. If you did, you’d understand the importance of building coalitions. Instead, what we get from you is activism for the sake of activism. A fucking performance. Fuck you and your movement.

  26. gary

    “When students of color speak our lives into existence, our speech comes under attack. When we defend our lives, we are harassing you. When we demand safety, we are attacking you. Our unapologetic voices are deranged screams; our open hands are clenched fists; our cellphones, weapons, our pigment, targets.”

    Well, when I try to talk about free speech, I get called a racist.

    This statement be well-placed in some locations, but this is Wesleyan, not the streets of Ferguson. I’m not saying institutionalized racism doesn’t exist at Wesleyan, but you most certainly DO have the community’s ear.

    The question is, will the group who posted this article continue to engage in the paranoid tactics of (1) calling any disagreement w/ their position “manifested racism,” (2) insisting that the entire world is against them and “doing everything it can” do obliterate their lives (see the wikipedia article on state-sponsored genocide for perspective) (3) mistaking the ever-present circulation of power (which certainly IS racist) for intentional support of racist intentionality (4) cut and dry separation between White elements of society and Black elements (isn’t that also racism?). Or will this group engage the community and build a coalition that can embrace both freedom of speech and racial equality. If the two are mutually exclusive, you’re going to have some problems.

    1. Taquoshi

      It’s even worse than that. Any kind of questioning is apparently grounds for racism accusations. A black woman was making a comment in a public meeting not all that long ago and someone near her started coughing loudly. I raised my hand and said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”. The speaker got all uptight and called me a racist. I was shocked. However, the black woman seated next to me stood up and said, “She didn’t hear what you said and NEITHER DID I !”

      After a moment of stunned silence, the speaker said, “I misunderstood.” and repeated her comment. As my seatmate settled back down, she muttered under her breath, “I fixed her a$$ good.” The older gentleman behind us nearly had an apoplectic fit trying not to laugh.

  27. Wickedwebsweunweave

    “By focusing on the freedom of speech instead of students’ lives and
    ability to safely exist on this campus, you are practicing censorship
    and you are partaking in racism.”

    I mean….I just….I….do they really not see how insane this statement is? By focusing on FREE SPEECH we are practicing CENSORSHIP? Nobody is censoring you, that’s the whole fucking point. Everybody on the left is putting his or her head in their hands because your whole argument is symbolic of a dangerous political extreme. But because WE are more thoughtful than you and understand the true concept of liberty, we defend your right to publish these asinine statements that claim the University should go out of their way to suppress opinions you find objectionable. You rail against how we suppress your voice, when every platform is surfeit with your whiny, poorly thought out arguments. The fact is that we’re not suppressing your voice: we’re disagreeing with it. But of course, to disagree with you must mean we’re racist.

    Fuck this so hard. Its embarrassing, it’s shameful, and worst of all it harms the very community you say you want to protect.

    1. Hep C

      What they are saying is that allowing people to speak that don’t agree with everything BLM says is racism.

      Feminists resort to that same weak argument. They often claim that disagreeing with anything they say is misogyny. It doesn’t work for them either.

  28. johnwesley

    By handing the mainstream press something else to write about, it was almost as if you deliberately chose a tactic out of the House Republican playbook. Doubling down on your mistaken tactics by issuing an unrepentent manifesto isn’t going to do you much good either. You all owe BLM and Campaign Zero an apology for setting back the movement many months, if not years. Nothing less will do.

  29. NooneUno

    Just when you think that it is impossible to make Wesleyan look more ridiculous this comes out. This piece is so rife with logical fallacies an entire course could be taught from it. The authors have reason to disagree with the original opinion piece, but pulling an Ann Coulter and taking absurd positions in order to get attention solve the problems.

    1. Vince Staples

      Ann Coulter? What is this, 2005? Also dude proofread your last sentence, your second clause ends sort of awkwardly.

      Also if you’re gonna defend white supremacy at least do it with some semblance of competence. “Logical fallacies”? What are you even talking about? No polemicist worth their salt is gonna act like “logic” isn’t a wholly subjective, historically contingent, rhetorically useless concept. Try again.

      1. Wickedwebsweunweave

        By focusing on free speech, you are restricting our voices.

        Yet, say we didn’t publish a BLM support article because a group of students on campus rejected the movement? And then we claimed that by focusing on their right to publish, they were supporting a movement that’s a “terrorist organization”. By hiding behind the smoke screen of free speech, they were not protecting the white students who’s lives might be threatened by black nationals. In fact, supporting the BLM support article was the same as saying that white policemen should be killed in the streets.

        I don’t believe any of that. But see how easy it is for extremism to thrive once you propose that supporting free speech is dangerous?

      2. gary

        Agree with the point that logic is historically contingent. But is it really “rhetorically useless”? What are our alternatives?

        Secondly, your implied position: “logic” is white supremacist. if we accept your implied position that “logic” is latently white supremacist (which is a much stronger claim than historically contingency), isn’t the other implication that the argument for racial equality can’t be justified on “logical” grounds?

        My head is spinning.

      3. jalkf;ad

        “Logical fallacies”? What are you even talking about? No polemicist worth their salt is gonna act like “logic” isn’t a wholly subjective, historically contingent, rhetorically useless concept. Try again.

        So logic is now rhetorical and subjective? Your head has just passed your rectum and is now making its way up your colon. My god, you even responded to his statement with a logical fallacy – an ad hominem. Some people can’t be reasoned with I suppose (especially if they don’t think that “reason” even exists).

  30. Beige person

    How in the world do you think the Argus “works” for anyone other than those who write articles for them? You could write 2000 articles championing BLM if you so wished. Your baseless claims against the Argus do nothing more than advance your personal cause and make the group look like bullies who are attacking a group simply standing up for a basic tenet of journalism.

  31. breathlss79

    You can recognize power structures and even know that op-eds (like the ones in the NYTimes) come from those who want to protect power, and you can still believe in freedom of speech. If the Argus didn’t publish any and all opinions about BLM, that would be one thing. But it does. The way to correct a power imbalance is not by suppressing opinions.

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