To the Editor:
I’d like to address this letter to Michael Pomeranz, whose column, “Reality check: ‘Yale is not cultivating intolerance’ ” (3/3), I found in need of response.
After reading over your opinion piece this week, I would ask you to challenge your assumption that everyone on this campus shares your professedly idyllic lived experience both on-campus and, more importantly, back home. The assumption is that access to privilege and shelter from bias is uniform to Yale students. While this school is disproportionately represented by private school alumni, even that experience is not monolithic. You may have successfully ignored your anti-Semitic LaRouchie attacker, but it’s harder to ignore that person when they’re sitting across from you at a desk, issuing your mortgage or determining your citizenship status. The pain of those words bites harder when they come from the mouths of peers, or even friends, in a class, than from the mouth of a stranger. For many, the skies are a little less clear; there are fewer reasons to click their heels.
Regardless, no one has thus far implied that Yale is “cultivating” a culture of hatred. No one is asking Yale to even apologize. Yale didn’t do it; some jerk did. But when these acts penetrate Yale’s cultivated safe space, many Yalies recognize it as the tip of an iceberg, as mild manifestations of social realities lurking just outside our ivory towers. They can’t fight the local chapter of the KKK, but they can fight this. They can’t go back and address that comment or graffiti in their high school hallways, but they can address it here. They can’t immediately change their local schools and neighborhoods to make them more fair and less segregated, but they can change Yale. And sure, responses and rallies are meant to assuage those who feel offended, but they’re also about giving those mired in hostile racial prejudices the chance to see more clearly, to recapture their compassion and humanity.
Yale has been great this year about responding to these acts individually, but it hasn’t been particularly responsive to creating structures that recognize the totality of acts on campus (most of which stay under the radar, and involve things more intimate than graffiti — ask the Coalition for Campus Unity for a copy of their informal record). In fact, the development of a well-publicized grievance board for such cases would mean the Yale students who feel as you do won’t have to have their transcendental Orwell discussions disrupted by quite so many rallies. It’s really a simple and reasonable request, and would probably involve receiving just a single e-mail per-idiotic-occurrence you can ignore, but it would create a public record you cannot.
The writer is a junior in Saybrook College.