Overreactive rally empowers bigoted perpetrators, misses all sides of issue

To the Editor:

As I walked out of Commons, I saw a protest. Not unusual. What was unusual was seeing signs from protestors that said they were taught racism and bigotry at Yale. Continuing on, I go to Cross Campus, where signs were placed, trying to signal how racism and bigotry affects the Yale community (while quoting 3-4 people, which seems to me a great sample size for a university of 12,000)

I don’t disagree that bigotry and racism is wrong. I do find myself disagreeing with the protests and the reactions by many groups on campus, signaling how Yale is an unfriendly place because of scattered incidents of racism.

Really? Unfriendly because 3-4 people in an undergraduate community of 6,000, a university of 12,000 and a city of 150,000 make public their racism and bigotry? Where have these people lived, sounds like paradise to live in a place with no bigotry or racism.

It’s easy to say Yale’s unfriendly. It’s easy to have discussions among like-minded individuals. It’s hard to do what I do: I go to Wilbur Cross High School and talk about discrimination, racism, bigotry, etc. with high school freshmen and sophomores every week. How about that for difficult? It’s easy to convince those around you that live in a relatively safe environment; it’s hard to do so when you have to talk to students that live in an environment seeping bigotry.

Racism is certainly intolerable but I am tired of these overreactions. I’m tired of the empowerment given to those that commit these actions. Racist graffiti doesn’t reflect on a community; it reflects on that individual. To pay attention is to empower them because it says that we are listening. The best way to fight back is to not polarize a campus between people who are somewhat offended and people who think it’s not a big deal.

I challenge those offended. Come to the Rotunda at 1:25 pm, this Friday. Come talk to my students. Commit to the difficult action of action in an environment you can change, not the easy overreaction in a place that’s extremely friendly to you already in most other instances.

Fernando Reyes

Nov. 14

Reyes is a sophomore in Branford College. He is the director of Youth Together’s high school branch.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Well said, Ferny. To be honest, I was incredibly agitated by the pervasiveness of the hyper-reactive response to a single incident that, as far as I can tell, does not meaningfully reflect on the sentiments of this community. Indeed, after some dozen emails and Facebooks notices concerning the Solidarity thing and the Vigil, I had grown from reasonably offended by the graffiti to immensely aggravated at those who decided to, as the saying goes, make a mountain out of a mole hill. Every incident of racism is not a violent shout back to the first half of the 20th Century in which such rallies would have rightfully had immense meaning and support. To overreact so desperately to this situation contributes greatly to desensitizing many (including myself) to what may possibly be legitimate concerns for the community at large to address as this one did (and I'm not really convinced that the graffiti incident was one.) Furthermore, it builds tension and possibly hostility among wider numbers than were ever really effected by that incident. As a black student at Yale, I think it's time for people to learn how to react reasonably and properly to a offensive situations. After all, we (as in people in general), have been facing them all our lives, and we will continue to do so. Not all (or even most) require such hypochondriac outreach. That being said, I have no protest against the rally or the protesters, per se. What bothers me are some of these signs that offended you, Ferny (which likewise offended me), and the fever-pitched outreach via the Internet that tried desperately (and vainly) to convince all that we were facing a nonexistent crisis. To put it simply and respectably; it's not that serious.

  • Anonymous

    A Yale security officer follows a Yale student of colour into an entryway and demands that he leaves, suspecting that he is a thief. Even after the student shows the security officer his ID guard, he is made to leave anyways. An African American Yalie has the police called on him while doing his laundry because he looks suspicious - as if he doesn't belong. A Yale student draws a swastika on a white board as a student in his entryway is talking about her joy in celebrating Hanukkah. Over email, a professor agrees to be the academic advisor of a Black Yale student with an anglo-saxon name but then refuses when the student shows up at his office for reasons she later learns are false. Etc. Etc. Etc. But you're right - this rally was only about one single incident and you're also correct in asserting that it's not that serious. Not serious at all.

  • Anonymous

    What would the lady or gentlemen like to do? Tell them to stop being racist? It's not going to happen. To some degree, you deal with it institutional means. This doesn't mean a "multicultural grievance board". This means going up to the individuals and telling them what they are doing is wrong.

    But you can't make racism go away. You can't and you won't. To live in a fairy tale land where this happens is ludicrous.

    What do you do? You rally amongst individuals? Sure. But that's easy. The administration isn't racist; some people there may be, but the administration isn't racist. Are most individuals?

    Not really.

    So what would the individual do? Implant devices that signal in high-pitched sounds when somebody is thinking about racism?

    No. You find a way to create a meaningful community. Going out of your way to say that your suffering is so "great" and that Yale teaches racism and bigotry…that's not a meaningful reaction. All it does is polarize between people who don't like discrimination and people who are extremists who feel everything around them is wrong.

    Most likely, the extremist isn't in the right here.

    Nobody outside of my group showed up. I wonder what they were protesting now. They could have talked to HS kids about this. Instead, they talked about it with themselves at an ivy-league institution.

    Sounds about par for Yale protesters.

    Ferny

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could have attended but at the time I was hosting a group of 40 students of colour who were on a campus visit from a New York City high school for lunch in Silliman. A couple of the other rally organizers were there as well (sounds on par for these Yale protesters). We do believe in talking to individuals about this and we have for years and we continue to do so, but we don't want to limit ourselves to just one response. For example, the majority of responses that were received after this year's freshmen orientation were positive and called for more dialogue about race issues. I believe that this is one example of how a variety of responses can be effective and this orientation would not have happened without the help of the Coalition for Campus Unity (CCU). I refuse to not try different approaches just because some of them may not work. And so we will continue to talk to individuals as issues arise but that is not all we will do. And sorry, but I won't apologize for being hopeful.

    - Funmi