A Party of the Right whip sheet inviting Yale students to debate the topic “Resolved: Reform the Savages” incited student uproar on Friday over its use of offensive language and images.
The debate in question was held at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday night at 279 Crown St., according to the handout.
“What remains of Civilization will debate the topic,” the whip sheet read. “The Party will colonize the Body of Savages known as the Yale Political Union as it debates the Topic ‘Resolved: Deny Amnesty for Undocumented immigrants.’”
On Friday afternoon, an image of the whip sheet was posted in the popular Facebook group Overheard at Yale, leading to online backlash against the Party of the Right. A few hours later, the Association of Native Americans at Yale released a statement condemning the whip sheet’s language and imagery as racist.
“The Association of Native Americans at Yale condemns the dehumanization of Indigenous people in the debate ‘Resolved: Reform the Savages’ organized by the Yale Party of the Right,” ANAAY said in its statement. “The Party of the Right uses racist imagery and language to portray indigenous peoples as others, as enemies, as inhuman.”
The statement said that while members of the Party of the Right find genocide “laughable,” people of color continue to face systematic oppression and suffer through the historical trauma of colonization.
Following the statement from ANAAY, Party of the Right Chairman Quinn Shepherd ’19 posted a letter to Overheard at Yale apologizing to members of Yale’s indigenous community who were hurt by the contents of the whip sheet, which she claimed full responsibility for having approved.
And in an interview with the News, Shepherd said that while the Chief Whip is the “primary person” writing the whip sheets, she is responsible for approving them.
“Many of my members expressed concern over the whip sheet, and as I was the one to approve it, I felt it was my place to personally extend my apologies and recognition that it had been hurtful to people,” said Shepherd.
The YPU debate was held on Monday, Sept. 25, three days before the Party of the Right debate. According to Shepherd, the POR debate topic was determined before the Yale Political Union decided to debate the issue of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. The whip sheet was distributed on Monday to POR members and those who the party thought might be interested in the debate, Shepherd said. She added that she was informed on Friday morning by a party member that a copy of the whip sheet had reached members of the NACC, who Shepherd said were upset by the sheet’s contents. After she became aware of the situation, Shepherd said she contacted leaders of “various organizations affiliated with the NACC,” including Kelly Fayard, the director of the Native American Cultural Center, to convey her apologies.
Peter Luff ’20, the chief whip of the POR, declined to comment for this story and directed questions to Shepherd.
ANAAY President Haylee Kushi ’18 told the News that if students are interested in supporting the Native community at Yale “in light of this recent incident of racism,” they should attend programming planned for Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 9.
In her apology letter, Shepherd said the “Reform the Savages” resolution was meant to open a conversation about the dangerous and insidious nature of colonialism, adding that the POR is known for using controversy to stoke debate over ideas. She also noted that the debate topic was intended to emphasize the “arbitrary way” that the pejorative “savage” has been used to justify cultural and economic imperialism.
“The purpose of the whip sheet is essentially to use satire to advertise the debate … when done well, whip sheets are used to make fun of the side that is controversial, or in some sense is more obviously wrong,” she told the News in her interview.
But, in the letter, she conceded that this whip sheet failed to properly communicate its purpose and “instead took cheap shots in an ultimately unproductive and harmful way.”
In its online statement, ANAAY stressed that the flyer’s satirical tone does not excuse the Party of the Right’s “explicit racism.”
On Friday night, the Liberal Party of the YPU posted a statement on Facebook condemning the “dehumanization of native and indigenous people” in the POR’s whip sheet.
The Party of the Left, another YPU group, also condemned the whip sheet’s contents in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Over the weekend, an internal memo was sent out by the YPU’s executive board to their panlist that “disavows the most recent whip sheet of the Party of the Right and the dehumanizing language that it contained.” The memo stressed that the actions of the Party of the Right do not represent the views of the wider YPU.
According to Shepherd, two students decided to forfeit their Party of the Right membership for “tangential reasons relating to the events of this weekend,” leaving the party with 21 members.
However, Shepherd told the News that she is not concerned about the Party of the Right losing more people. And while she acknowledged that the incident could possibly affect the group’s recruitment efforts this year, she noted that “there are still people interested” in what the group does.
“The Party of the Right spent the weekend … internally critiquing itself and thinking about what we can do better in the future,” Shepherd said. “In the long run of things, I think the Party of the Right will be fine.”
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org
This story has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Oct. 2.