Question: whether the frustration students of color feel is legitimate?

Objection 1: Isis, you’re writing this article stylized in the same way as “Summa Theologica,” a work by the theologian Thomas Aquinas. Aren’t you dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools?

Objection 2: Most claims about racism made on campus recently are based on unfounded, anecdotal evidence.

Objection 3: Yale students are privileged and should not complain.

On the contrary, some argue that Yale can be tolerant of racial issues, although the current movement employs tactics that falls outside of respectable discourse.

I answer: Racism that students of color experience, both inside and outside of Yale, is institutionalized. When I provide examples of racism on campus, the goal isn’t to vilify every white person that I see. Writing off the grievances students of color experience only re-entrenches the idea that they should be treated as substandard. Systemic discrimination permeates every facet of our lives.

According to an NAACP fact sheet, 1 in 6 black men have been incarcerated since 2001; currently there are more black men in prison than there were slaves in 1850. Psychological studies have shown how unconscious racial bias harms people of color in employment, academics and medicine. Devah Pager, a professor of sociology at Harvard, conducted a study which found that white men with criminal backgrounds were just as likely as black men without records to be hired. Racism is alive and well in America; it is false to say that we have rid ourselves of discrimination in a country that was founded on the backs of slaves.

In his book “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce,” Slavoj Zizek writes about how U.S. free trade policies are used to monopolize agricultural industries worldwide, which mostly affect countries that are primarily inhabited by people of color. Black women experience the highest rates of domestic violence in the U.S. Although people make the claim that “ethnic studies” will deflect attention away from other forms of oppression, such as sexism and classism, the reality is that race is inextricable from these issues. bell hooks, a leading scholar in postmodern studies and black feminism, wrote that “‘cultural studies’ has made writing about nonwhite culture more acceptable, particularly in the humanities.” In other words, cultural studies are essential for integrating issues of race into more mainstream disciplines; every society has eventually had to deal with prejudice. The word “xenophobia” has a Greek etymology for a reason.

Reply to Objection 1: Though I promote an ethnic studies requirement, this does not mean all aspects of classical literature need to be rejected. While I appreciate Aristotle’s practical approach to philosophy, I cannot agree with his views on women or natural slaves. We can adopt some parts of moral theories that we admire, even if we don’t agree with the entirety of said theories. I’m not advancing the content of Aquinas’ argument simply because I adopt its form. Rather, in adopting this model for argumentation, I disprove the claim that classical studies have more merit than ethnic studies.

Reply to Objection 2: Oppressive structures do not merely dissipate simply because we enter Phelps Gate. Being a Yale student didn’t stop Charles Blow’s son from being detained by police on campus last year. According to a 2014 News article, only 13.4 percent of tenured faculty are nonwhite and many barriers continue to exist for faculty of color. Recent sexual assault survey results revealed that undergraduate females of “American Indian,” “Black/African-American,” and “Native Hawaiian” descent all experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their white counterparts. I could go on with empirical examples of where racism exists, but narratives of students of color are just as important as statistics. The perspectives of students are just as valuable, whether they employ Socratic dialogue or are spoken word. Narratives can often give a more personalized experience of racism that can help us understand oppression more than any statistic can. Praxis needs an amalgamation of embodied experience, theory and empirical evidence.

Reply to Objection 3: To those that call all Yale students “privileged,” I am extremely lucky and grateful to go to Yale because of its resources and phenomenal faculty. However, this does not mean that Yale is a perfect institution. Making the assumption that all Yale students are equally privileged is extremely essentialist and untrue. According to a recent News survey, 51 percent of the incoming freshman class had an annual combined household income of over $125,000. Questions of income and race cannot be separated when so many students of color live in households with average incomes significantly lower than those of white households. A study by the Pew Research Center found that white households had 13 times more wealth than black households and 10 times more wealth than Hispanic households. It isn’t helpful to call us all “privileged” when things like financial aid policies and campus culture affect students of color differently.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Isis Davis-Marks is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at

  • eli2015

    This is a well-written column and deserves a real response. I’ll only offer a brief one:
    Re: reply to objection 1 – “In adopting this model for argumentation, I disprove the claim that classical studies have more merit than ethnic studies.” Really? I think that this argument showed how the real, legitimate questions of race and ethnicity can be approached powerfully through the classical disciplines, such as philosophy and history, rather through separate fields of study.
    Re: reply to objection 2 – Faculty statistics do not prove discrimination; perhaps there were fewer applicants of color.
    Re: reply to objection 3 – The reason why some people say that “Yale students are privileged and should not complain” is a question of priorities – with objectively much worse things going on in the world, the US, and New Haven, why should activists devote attention to a place where people are *relatively* privileged?

    • annette

      …but poorly reasoned column.

    • Sarii

      I think the point is that many students at Yale (including the author herself) are involved in activism that can try to help the community at large (like, for instance, trying to help labor unions in New Haven and trying to support employment of qualified individuals of color in severely underprivileged New Haven neighborhoods); this doesn’t mean they can’t also try to change the community on campus. Doing both is, in my opinion, the best way to go. If you could choose only one, I’d probably prioritize helping New Haven, but since there aren’t hard limits, doing both is a great goal. I think many people don’t realize that many of the activists at Yale are involved in many forms of activism.

  • yalie2

    There aren’t many people at Yale who are arguing that racism doesn’t exist. When they push back against protesters, it’s usually about what they perceive as a misrepresentation of the effects of racism on the students actually here at Yale.

    For example, I doubt hardly any of the black men at Yale have ever been in jail. It strikes many as somewhat disingenuous to cite that as a reason for protesting something like Erika Christakis’s email. Likewise, very few Yalies have any connection to impoverished Africans. Anecdotally, most of the few Africans at Yale seem to be the children of doctors and academics. Rightly or wrongly, it often appears that people are using the real suffering of others in much less privileged positions in order to justify their goals of obtaining privileges for themselves. I personally wouldn’t go that far, but I do believe there is a bit of a disconnect between the suffering of minorities around the world and the experiences of students of color at Yale.

    At Yale I was a “low income” white student, and I want to push back some against treating race and class as the same. It’s true they are linked, but they are not at all the same thing. Many of the people who push back the most against these sorts of race protests are poor whites who have very different views about class and do not appreciate discussions of class being subsumed by race discussions.

    Regarding point #2, Blow’s son was detained because the officer believed he matched the description of a suspect. Obviously his being black had something to do with that, but it was for a real reason and there were no actual negative consequences for Blow. The person who was in position to suffer the worst consequences was the officer who happened to have stopped the son of a prominent columnist. Fortunately nothing came of it other than some flared tempers.

    Regarding point #3, Yale students are extremely privileged. Yes, it’s not entirely equal, but almost all of us will soon be among the 30% of Americans who are college graduates (obviously we’re not all Americans; I’m just trying to use a relevant statistic), and in the upper echelons of that 30%. We also get there without nearly the same amount of debt and work (as in formal employment for money) as students at less wealthy universities (which is pretty much everywhere). 90% of us do not qualify for full financial aid, meaning we come from families earning well above the national median income. Those of us (like me) from that bottom 10%, are here on generous financial aid packages that our peers from back home can barely dream of.

    Of course that doesn’t invalidate complaints, but it does provide context for why complaints about emails (and I know it’s more than that, but that’s a concrete issue that much of this has focused on) seem trivial and unworthy of the moral outrage that has resulted.


      The response posted above thoroughly dismantles the childish reasoning of the article. You hit the nail on the head, yalie2, when you called out people who “[use] the real suffering of others in much less privileged positions in order to justify their goals of obtaining privileges for themselves”. That has been one of the shameful legacies of affirmative action. Look who benefits – the children of black doctors and lawyers. Social justice in action.

      • groenima

        Using the threads of your argument, one could more logically conclude that affirmative action 20 years ago succeeded, as evidenced by the number of children of black doctors and lawyers currently at Yale. A positive, rather than shameful legacy and yes, the best kind of social justice in action.

      • Sarii

        Many of my friends at Yale of color are not the children of black doctors and lawyers. Some doubtlessly are, but the fact remains that many of them work jobs every week just to make enough money to meet the student income contribution. It initially seemed incredulous to me that people on financial aid that had a “student income contribution” (everyone on financial aid has one) actually had to work during the school year to fulfill it. I’m on financial aid, and even though the extra 3,000 or so during the school year is a burden, it’s one that my parents are willing (and able, though Yale’s financial aid package will definitely force me to take out substantial loans, which is absurd considering Yale’s enormous endowment) to cover. On the other hand, I’ve met an astonishing number of people who work 10+ hours a week to meet this 3,000 contribution because their parents literally cannot afford to pay even 3,000. Moreover, some students from less advantaged areas of the US find Yale’s schoolwork more challenging than their more privileged peers. Therefore, I would say that many of the students at Yale are truly disadvantaged. I think it wrong to assume otherwise when I see many of my friends sacrificing their social lives and failing to engage in extracurriculars to hold a job.

        • DZMLSIENCE

          I’m sorry but you are corresponding with someone who worked 30-40 hours per week during school. I don’t have a ton of sympathy for the argument that working two 5 hour shifts at the library is a form of racism.

          The endowment of Yale University is not your honeypot.

    • groenima

      Thanks for a thoughtful critique that focuses on the content of the article, rather than repeating the ad hominem, bandwagon, slippery slope fallacies that pop up far too often in the YDN comment section.

  • vincent

    “Rather, in adopting this model for argumentation, I disprove the claim that classical studies have more merit than ethnic studies.” If that’s what you think you accomplished I suggest you take a formal logic course sooner rather than later. A Yale education is a terrible thing to waste.

  • Hieronymus Machine

    The saddest thing, IMO, is that it appears likely this clearly bright and energetic student is going to have spent her time NOT pursuing some discipline of objective* worth, e.g., science, math, engineering, medicine…

    *By “objective” (and I expect to be shouted at, but, whatever), I mean that one’s contributions can be measured in Nobels (ex so-called peace prizes), patents, tech/biotech innovations — heck, income and wealth — versus rent-seeking sinecures (cf., e.g., GESO). As I often opine, who is doing more to change the world, Bill Gates or [insert anger-industry executive] bully-pulpitting (or just bullying) his/her/xer way to tenure?


      Well said. There is an entire grievance industry fueled by tax dollars and rent-seeking extortion behavior. Many people spend their lives just getting deep into that gravy train. The Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons and Barack Obamas of the world do it in the realm of politics. Many others do it in academia or academic administration. They create no value during their time on earth. They spend all of their time and effort trying to expropriate value created by others. For themselves and for their allies. Redistribution of OPM is their only legacy.

  • Ralphiec88

    Apparently length and density are key factors in Yale admissions essay evaluations. A real compelling argument would fit in a paragraph. Instead you’ve assembled a pile of straw men, padded it out with important statistics largely irrelevant to Next Yale! demands, and tried to lend it credence with a sprinkling of Latin.
    Your initial question (faulty generalization of specific criticisms as “whether the frustration…is legitimate?”) is already a straw man, but it only goes downhill from there:
    1. An erudite straw man is still a straw man. A better question might be whether demanding that Yale make available “discretionary funds” to dole out to persons of color is truly empowering.
    2. No one has said that Yale or any institution is free of racism. They have pointed out that the alleged SAE incident stretches credulity and even if true would not be evidence of institutional racism.
    3. No one has said that privileged students should not complain. Many have qeustioned hyperbolic language such as feeling too “unsafe” to sleep in Sillman, describing Yale as a plantation, or talking about “pain” that is dwarfed by real pain felt by so many outside the Yale bubble.

  • Debbie

    If racism were such a huge problem at Yale and in higher education in general after decades of academia being firmly in the control of racism-loathing progressives, there would be no need for those aspiring to the highly coveted status of victim of racial oppression to whine about “micro-aggressions” or to get the vapors over suggestions that they shouldn’t get the vapors over harmless Halloween costumes — there would be plenty of real problems to whine about. We also wouldn’t see so many alleged expressions of racism at universities turn out to be hoaxes perpetrated by “social justice warriors.”

  • Seattle Truth

    It’s great that Yale is indoctrinating a new army of neo-Maoist Cultural Revolutionaries.

    You kids are disgusting. You hate Western values. You hate the first amendment, you hate the second amendment. You might as well hate the whole constitution. Your sick and perverted ideology was conceived in the Frankfurt school as a way to trick the stupid goyim to fight for Marxism after they realized nobody was dumb enough to carry-on the revolution for economic reasons alone. So they applied the class struggle to races and sexes instead, and that’s where you get the identity politics of today.

    It’s pure neo-Marxist cancer, and you’re using the methods of Mao’s cultural revolutionaries to cry-bully your way into power. And don’t get it twisted…. Liberals were already in power at these universities. But liberals respected freedom of speech, because that’s how they came to power. Now the progressives are hoaxing and cry-bullying their way into power, and now that they’ve climbed the castle, they’re attempting to kick away the ladder so that nobody else can come to power.

    You neo-Marxists revolutionaries are 100% anti-American, and you will be stopped from destroying our Western values of freedom.

    • ldffly

      You might be a little more specific in sourcing the current day problems. French post modern thought has had a big hand in this. One must go back to Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida.

  • Sarii


  • Hieronymus Machine

    From a 2005 DOJ report: “In the 36,620 cases in which the victim of rape or sexual assault was [insert demographic segment], 100 percent of the offenders were [insert same segment], and 0.0 percent of the offenders were [insert complementary segment].”

    This 0.0% figure held true in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, the last year for which this type of data was made publicly available.


      I have read that statistic before and it is stunning. It is hard to imagine that not a single black female was raped by a white male. But while I am sure there must be at least one unreported instance of white-on-black rape, it still tells a powerful message about what’s going on out there. The statistics prove precisely the opposite of the nonsense the author is trying to sell us.

    • Sarii

      What I question is the likelihood of white men to be convicted of raping black women. I think it much more likely that black men be convicted. I’m not convinced, but this is still interesting to note.

  • Hieronymus Machine

    Maybe; although I haven’t read too much current writing that qualifies as “literature,” IM(patriarchalcolonialistheteronormativebigoted)O.

    Even literature would beat, say, the rantings of UCSB’s Miller-Young or many of Yale’s own AmStud PhD candidates, e.g.

  • Bob

    Ethnic studies is driven by ideology, not real scholarship. A degree in ethnic studies is as valuable as a GED but at Yale costs as much as a nice house.

    • vincent

      If this article is an example of the kind of reasoning taught in ethnic studies, I think students are better off just sticking with a GED. Maybe supplement it with a useful skills course like shop class and they can have a marketable skill as opposed to wasting four years of their lives, accumulating thousands in student loan debt and ending up less capable of engaging in critical thinking than when they matriculated.

      • ldffly

        These ethnic studies diplomas probably lack the rigor of the GED. Nonetheless, those with an ethnic studies diploma from Yale, though likely not from lesser institutions, will probably find gainful employment. They make very good badges of diversity for major corporations, agencies, and governmental bureaus.

  • credo

    I actually like this style of writing – I wish more articles used it

  • Tucker Pendleton

    Paragraph (P) 1: Loaded question.
    P 2: Non-sequitur; elevates form over substance.
    P 6: Conclusory.
    P 7: Argues correlation implies causation 2x; appeal to authority and “genetic” fallacy; argument ad populum; fails to lay foundation; composition fallacy.
    P 8: Definitional fallacy (“monopolize”); appeal to authority; argues correlation implies causation; non-sequiturs; appeal to authority and “genetic” fallacy; argument ad populum; relevance and ambiguity (last sentence).
    P 9: Non-sequitur; fails to answer the question; there it is, the straw-man.
    P 10: Anecdotal; composition fallacy; appeal to authority; argues correlation implies causation; presumptive; conclusory; non-sequitur.
    P 11: Ambiguity; relevance; strawman; relevance; non-sequitur; fails to lay foundation; ambiguity; fallacy of division.

    This does not mean what your trying to say is not true; only, it’s poorly reasoned and not “QED’d”.


      If you can believe it, Tucker Pendelton, this is what passes for “debate” among some folks at Yale. Admissions got some ‘splainin’ to do…

      • Sarii

        Please, point out a university where this kind of debate isn’t prevalent. And besides that, I don’t understand the backlash on her argument. It seems reasonable to me in every respect, and I don’t agree with some of Pendleton’s criticisms (particularly those involving correlation implies causation). But I do think it commendable he took the time to criticize her rhetoric to such a picky extent. Constructive criticism is always useful.

        • Tucker Pendleton

          Fleshing out causation is critical to understanding the dimensionality of a purported issue and its urgency. Here, the article cites two studies in P 6 (actually, three; two are empirical) concerning incarcerated black men, and employment prospects of white men. Without explaining how racism caused the two phenomena, she concludes “Racism is alive and well in America.” The fallacy is repeated through out the piece; in so doing, we must accept the conclusions without thinking about them. That’s suspect. Especially, when you can easily argue, for example: Historically, certain racist laws disenfranchised black people. Disenfranchising limits one’s economic prospects, inter alia. People who have limited economic prospects tend to commit crimes. Those who commit crimes go to prison. Thus, because of racist laws that disenfranchised black people, 1 in 6 have been imprisoned since 2002; consequently, racism is alive and well in America. When you make the progression, we can choose whether to accept, reject, or revise the premises, provide feedback, and derive a better solution. That’s a simplification, of course; but, its revealing, the premises might not be as egregious and urgent as the author would like, but she’s free to make other arguments. And we’re free to critique them.

        • DZMLSIENCE

          The author is someone who has reputedly been trained in debate. What we are getting served up in this column is solidly middle school quality.

  • Prg234

    Your argument about institutional racism in America is valid. Your focus on changing Yale to meet an ideal is shortsighted. Yes, regardless of your background or family income, you are highly privileged by your affiliation with Yale. My advise as an old liberal: use the power of Yale to shape and push the agenda of groups such as Black Lives Matters and others that are trying to make changes in society at large that will benefit the vast majority of blacks not the small number of elites. Look around you in New Haven and you will see the clear path to follow in your activism – the issues of racism, poverty, violence and inequality are all around us. A better funded cultural center, required ethnic studies, more diverse faculty, a dining hall where you are never confused as a server, peers that tiptoe around you to make sure that you never hear a micro aggression, frat parties that are equally welcoming of black guests are all a poor substitute for the societal challenges that await you and can use your effort and leadership as a Yale elite.


    We’re simply never going to get anything substantial from the BlackLiesMatter crowd regarding evildoing on Yale’s campus. When one asks for evidence of aggressions we’re told that they are actually “micro-aggressions” or “nano-aggressions” that cannot be perceived by the human eye. Or quantum aggressions that phase out of existence upon being observed. When asking for evidence of racism, one is referred to “institutional racism” that is so much a fabric of reality that it cannot be discerned without special instrumentation. Unless one has the proper racial credentials, of course. Then, all is self-evidently apparent.

    This clown show has gone on long enough. Time to call out the race pimps and hold them to account.

  • Phil Ostrand

    Again no specific documented examples of institutional racism at Yale. While the tenured faculty example can be construed as one, the more relevant statistic would be how many non tenured and graduate students are non white. Thereby showing that those moving through the educational track are now broadening the base. Using tenure would naturally include some professors there when discrimination was active and open, not as today where it is universally condemned. Vos Necitis Quicquam.