Imagine, if you will, a winter night at Yale. A group of Caucasian students, perhaps intoxicated, perhaps just seeking good times, have gathered in front of a campus cultural house. They are pledges of the Yale chapter of a nationwide, all-white organization. According to plan, one whips out a digital camera. Another proudly clutches a type-written sign. Thrilled, the pledges crowd around the sign and smile lasciviously at the camera. They pose. A picture is taken.
The building: the Af-Am house. The sign: “WE LOVE YALE N-GGERS.”
If this happened, would an apology suffice?
This analogy is imperfect. It is only a crude attempt to portray the emotional and psychological violence of hate speech.
The gentlemen of Zeta Psi have apologized to “YALE SLUTS” — but only for what they thought they’d been caught for. They didn’t apologize for chanting “dick” outside the Women’s Center before their photo-op, and intimidating a female student from entering the Center (which, by the way, services rape victims — roughly 25 percent of women). They didn’t apologize for using the word “slut,” and being proud of it. They didn’t apologize for committing premeditated hate speech, for documenting that hate speech with pride, or for exalting it on Facebook.
And they didn’t apologize at all until we threatened legal action. The bigotry of Zeta Psi is unexceptional. It is pervasive, at Yale and around the world. This sort of behavior has to change, everywhere, here, and right now.
These men’s behavior is inexcusable. They are amongst the most privileged boys on the planet, with access to the best education the world has to offer. They knew this was wrong. They knew why this was wrong. Yet it still happened. And it will continue to happen until systemic change is made.
Yale’s sexists love to say that feminists have no sense of humor. Here’s a good joke: lawyer up.
Presca Ahn, Hannah Burnett, Stacey Fitzgerald, Claire Gordon, Chase Olivarius-McAllister, Kathryn Olivarius, Liz Olson, Isabel Polon, Valerie Steinberg, Jessica Svendsen and Lorraine Van Kirk are the members of the Yale Women’s Center Board.