After attending the forum Wednesday night at the Af-Am house, talking with my friends who are women of color and standing in the Silliman courtyard to hear students address Master Nicholas Christakis, I feel drained. At night before bed, I think about what I, as a white woman, can do to support and love the women of color on this campus. I know many of the white women around me are asking similar questions.

But this is exactly what we shouldn’t be thinking. I should not feel drained by these conversations; the women who are voicing their sadness, anger and pain are so much more tired by these discussions than I can feel or understand. I need to get out of my own head and spend my energy listening to the voices around me that go unheard most of the year. Only through listening can I learn, and only through learning can I hope to combat hatred on this campus and beyond.

So, white women: listen first.

And don’t just listen in forums and large group discussions. Reach out individually to women of color you know. Remind them of your love and support. Many black women on campus have made themselves vulnerable before the entire community by sharing their experiences. Commend your friends for their bravery and for taking on a burden that shouldn’t be theirs to carry in the first place. It takes a lot to be a Yale student, and even more so for someone who must constantly fight for the right to be heard and respected.

The women who have come forward and who are leading these discussions are more than courageous; they are generous. They have no responsibility to educate us about racism. That is our own responsibility.

So, white women, educate yourselves. Lex Barlowe ’17, in her opening statements to the crowd at the Af-Am house on Wednesday, read a document written by the Black Student Alliance at Yale about changes that need to take place on campus to cultivate a more inclusive and safe environment. One demand was that an Af-Am and WGSS class be mandatory for all Yale students. Even if these classes are not currently mandatory, make them mandatory for yourselves. Go out and read about how racism operates in the lives of people around you. Read writing by black women, and read a lot of it. Read Audre Lorde. Read Claudia Rankine. Read Elizabeth Alexander, an amazing professor who’s leaving Yale this year (shoutout again to BSAY, who also demanded an initiative to retain faculty of color). Read, and forget about yourself while you do so.

On Thursday, Master Christakis interrupted students instead of listening to them. I do not believe that he meant to be so condescending and uncaring to the students he addressed. Intention is not all that matters, of course. He caused students a lot of pain, students for whom he is supposed be an advocate, and for that he owes an apology. But Master Christakis’ response also shows a lack of understanding. He obviously did not understand what it means to confront racism with respect and sensitivity. He should be listening, not talking, like Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. He should be reading black women’s writing, not tweeting from the Silliman Twitter account.

White women, after you‘ve listened and read, it’s time to remember your role in all this. We need to step up. Many of the black women on campus are exhausted. As white women, we can use our privilege to support the black voices around us. We do not face the same violence and hatred as women of color do. As white women, we need to get in faces, we need to yell, we need to get angry and fight back.

But enough about what white women can do. We need to direct the conversation back to the experiences of people of color on this campus. At this moment, black women, who are so vital to our community, are hurting. Yale should learn to care for the women of color here, who, through speaking out, make our campus a better place.

Sophie Ruehr is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at .

  • quals

    The white guilt is strong in this one.

    • Hieronymus Machine

      From elsewhere (The now downed Yale Herald): “A safe campus culture requires the participation of all its members.”

      Play that in your head, in your best Big Brother voice… “requires.” If voluntary submission is not forthcoming, it will become “mandatory,” which may “require” force, whether physical or… less tangible but nonetheless visceral–or vicious.

  • CoryIntheHouse

    This is embarrassing.

  • concerned

    Black women and white women, please know that you have been given to face 300 years of inertia on a campus that is not of your making. And will encounter over time at least a few women and men promoted to maintain and extend this state of affairs for as long as possible as a comfort to the majority. Obviously, from this perspective your individual time on campus is brief. So then simply complete brilliantly the task of leaving Yale as an educated woman so you may continue your resolve to remake this experience into what you know it should be.

  • Hieronymus Machine


    “White women … it’s time to remember your role in all this. … As white women, we can use our privilege to support the black voices around us. ”

    I have not read anything more unconsciously bigoted than this in many a month.

  • FlameCCT

    How about listening to MLK instead of acting like special snowflakes:
    “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King Jr.

  • AngusMcP

    Holy shit — Christakis interrupted the students? Watch the videos and you’ll see who interrupted who.

    Down is up. Up is down. Yale has gone insane.

  • bayboat65 .

    Pity the poor Yalie. No one to tell them if a Halloween costume is inappropriate.
    I Truly feel pain over the apparent emotional slippage from adult back to middle school for some Yale students.
    “Teacher! , she’s being mean to me!”

  • Doug Wakeman

    The term “racism” has zero relationship to its former meaning of dislike and discrimination based on race. Today it means hatred for Caucasians, heterosexuals, males and Western Civilization. It certainly has nothing to do with Blacks.

  • Juan Diaz

    As a Yale alumnus who lives in the business world, I am saddened to see so many misguided Yale students. When you leave Mother Yale, you will find that no one cares about all your suffering for past injustices, particularly if you have a degree from a place like Yale. Folks will want to hear about what you can do for them and about your SKILLS. No one will care about your history or background and no one will treat you any differently because of your sex, color, religion, national origin, ethnic group, etc. But if you insist on focusing on those features, people will avoid you like the plague and you will soon find yourself with limited career options. Avoid becoming or acting like a victim and learn to have a civilized and serious discussion with those around you about those issues that concern you, and you will soon find the road to success.

  • Darren J

    Here is a typical question: “Why isn’t this woman successful?” The liberal will answer every time, “Society society society, society doesn’t allow her to.” Questioning this idea will be categorized as misogynistic. This mentality chooses to silence any piece of evidence that proves to the contrary of the idea of societal oppression.

  • mrthecoolguy

    oh apparently every other white woman’s job is to listen, yours is to write tedious essays about what a good ally you are

  • ALG

    “He obviously did not understand what it means to confront racism with respect and sensitivity.” — Sophie, I understand your good intentions with this piece, but you – and some of your peers- must try harder to allow for real conversation to happen. Your writing actually can be read as divisive and racist, although I don’t believe that was your intention. Its seems obtuse to have clear expectations of what members of the Yale community should and should not do, especially when there are such different perspectives and experiences with race and inclusion, imposing your own bias of the “right response” and the “right way to confront racism” may often do more harm to the conversation than good. Just as you approach black women with such patience and respect -an open heart even- so you should approach even the most intolerant, bigoted individuals, and those with more nuanced views that are different to yours, for that is how true exchange of ideas and emotions happens. How you speak out affects this campus, so how is your message improving the overall environment for black women, black students, all students and the wider members of the Yale community?

  • Phil Ostrand

    Sophie you are kidding right? The Master was shouted down and F’bombed 6 inches from his face by an emotionally out of control crowd, who did not want to listen. But only demanded obedience. I can only say that apparently you do not see the parallels between what you are saying needs to be done and how Mao instituted the Cultural Revolution. Might I suggest some history classes on the subject. Yale used to offer some good courses about it…

  • Michael Buzzard

    I cannot fully understand others’ lives and attendant difficulties. And there remains plenty of explicit and tacit injustice associated with skin color (and other “otherness”) which needs urgently addressed. But I seriously doubt the most productive action to this end involves “get[ting] in faces” or yelling and fighting.

  • Ralphiec88

    Get over yourself. Seriously. You have been lucky enough to bypass the hardships that are reality for 99% of the people on the planet. You complain about Christakis interrupting students, but make no mention of a woman of color going off on an unhinged abusive tirade on him? And then you speak of “making our campus a better place.”
    Save this article and read it again in 10 years. Or better yet, avoid that disappointment in what you could have been. Listen to yourself now and make the changes that allow you to truly make the campus a better place.

  • Mark Chang

    What I would like to know from all of this is what specific demands/actions this movement actually wants. At the moment, it looks like the individuals Ms. Ruerhr writes about are in the solid “Listen to me! I want action now!” camp, but they don’t have anything meaningful or specific to actually say, other than to gush about their emotional distress or perceived victimhood. While it’s fine and nice to talk about feelings and experiences, the human experience of everyone is made up of trying moments. Yalies demanding professors be fired for perceived racial insensitivity deserve no higher platform than students who may perceive weight bias, status bias, height bias, gender bias, sexuality bias, etc. There are so many ways that one can classify oneself that if one tried hard enough, one could perceive at least one form or another that he/she is disadvantaged compared to the image of the mythical perfect human being social justice warriors constantly rail on and on about. The facts, though, are that nobody has a free ride in life. Where activists may see a white privileged straight male, he may see himself as the struggling son of a single mother, or the overweight Mormon son of a heroin-addicted couple, etc. Too quickly, I have seen fellow classmates ready to jump to assumptions that they are being judged, stereotyped, etc, when in fact, they are rendering the same stereotypes against people they have no clue about, and trying to paint a uniform image of a villain all of society must coalesce against.

    To support such brutality and broad brush villainization is not only a mark of deepest hypocrisy, but a display of ignorance fighting against supposed ignorance.

    • Hieronymus Machine

      Among other possibilities

      Mandatory diversity sensitivity trainings for all faculty, staff, and students.

      Mental health programs for the Black community & other communities of color that are specifically funded and specific to our experiences

      The administration supports and encourages members of SAE and other fraternities/spaces where such offenses have occurred to read a series of Black feminist texts and report on what they have learned

      All students must be required to take a certain number of classes from the AFAM, ER&M, and WGSS departments (not credit/D).

      • BarryG

        SAE should be punished for the crime that they didn’t commit! No need for evidence, that the member himself was black, that there were black woman inside. Bah! A simple claim against them is enough!! To the gallows! F*ck the free speech set up by those ancient dead white men. Fascism now and forever!

  • disqus_fvLIBK8ktD

    Also hurting are the minority students who were spat on and called race traitors for daring to attend a conference on free speech.

  • marcedward

    My sons will never be able to afford to go to Yale, yet I doubt any Yale student will be competition for them in any industry that doesn’t rely on nepotism for hiring decisions. What a joke.

  • BarryG

    Yeah, polite rational discourse is anti-black. Shout it down, block it and walk it off. Someone puts up a swastika — that’s an anti-Jewish sign, but if any Jew happens to mention Israel, attack attack! Let’s ignore the fact that Jews are some of the few people on earth that are recent survivors of real genocide and have well funded armies arrayed against them whose stated goal is genocide. Coddle their attackers … until it happens here.

    Why not have white woman switch to engineering classes and strike a real blow for economic equality by simply entering productive fields of study? If it’s so easy, just use those “privilege” points y’all got on your cards. Heck, nothing stops black woman from doing the same.

  • BarryG

    Social science academia tends to deny any notion of objective truth. But, it’s hard to deny pragmatic truth: that some “truths” work way better than others. I can hold Newton’s laws of motion true for slower motions, you can hold some Aristotle or some deconstructed narrative truth, but I’m going to do way better at predicting where things will go once thrown.

    So, hurtful, pragmatic truth: You are focusing on the wrong form of privilege. The real reason blacks perform (on average) terribly in school and terribly in life is culture. For the same reason, Asians excel (on average). Deny that and your solutions won’t work. The primary privilege better performing groups have is their culture and the values that culture upholds. Same is true internationally, people will argue that Israel is ahead because of US funding. When really it is < 1% of their budget and all devoted to arms which Israel's precarious situation needs. In contrast, the oil money flowing to the region is 100's of times bigger and the region is backwards. Islam is backwards wherever it is and has been increasingly since they turned fundamentalist. They produce almost no output of books, music, science or even non-oil related business. It is Islam and not the West that does this to them.

    The more people adopt the victim status (Jews certainly could), the less incentive to change values to compete better. No amount of money will fix this problem, it often makes it worse, just see the results of lottery winners. How to change this is a deeper question, but shielding it doesn't do it.

  • capecodmaga

    Wow Sophie… All these people in America are trying to move forward. All lives matter. Obviously you do not think so. You are the problem in today’s extremely racist society.