a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
By Maya Doig-Acuna
Today, I experienced my first moment of genuine disappointment as an alumna of Middlebury College (I graduated two weeks ago). All day it followed me; the deeply uncomfortable awareness that the school from which I graduated continues to be complicit in the oppressive fuckery we see, and often denounce, in the rest of our country.
Charles Murray should never have been invited to speak at Middlebury. And I am angry that anyone with any institutional power would green-light this event. Charles Murray is a racist social scientist who allows the oldest and most toxic forms of bigotry to influence his academic conclusions, and whose research has, in turn, been used to justify bigoted and harmful policy.
In his most famous work, The Bell Curve, Murray misuses data on IQ test disparities to argue that race, class, and gender determine intelligence—or rather, that social and economic inequities are natural consequences of innate differences in intelligence. He suggests, for instance, that white men hold most of the wealth and occupy the most powerful positions in our society because they are intellectually, and genetically, superior to people of color, to women, and to poor people.
Murray dismisses environmental factors (i.e. education, poverty, discrimination, test bias, language, cultural difference) that influence things like IQ scores, or SAT scores, and he overestimates the significance of these test results as indicators of people’s full intelligence and capabilities. However, IQ tests are culturally-specific and limited in the scope and type of cognitive abilities they measure.
Moreover, and most concerning, Murray draws dangerous moral conclusions about intelligence: that it has something to do with one’s civility, with one’s value, and with one’s humanity. This presumption is exceptionally ableist, and has also often been the ideological basis of colonization, imperialism, mass incarceration, school segregation, and genocide.
Murray’s work has had a powerful and destructive legacy in this country. This is the research folks draw on to end welfare programs, to reduce public school funding, to undermine affirmative action, and to strengthen the police state. This is the kind of research that hurts people in ways both material and social.
When students at Middlebury invite such a man to visit their college, and when they present the lecture event as thought it’s an opportunity for healthy debate, they affirm the legitimacy of his racism. And most painful in all of this, these students ask their peers to prove their own humanity. The students in Middlebury’s branch of the American Enterprise Institute–by bringing Charles Murray, and encouraging those who oppose his views to come and publicly explain why–suggest that racism and anti-racism bear the same logical merit. Through their words and actions, these AEI members and their supporters say to students and community members who are of color, who come from poor families, who are disabled, who are women, who are genderless, who are queer: “Come and convince us that you matter. This is what college, what learning, is all about!”
Remember that a majority of students at Middlebury and schools like Middlebury—indeed, Charles Murray himself—have never, and will never, be asked to convince anyone that they are human. Remember that explicit and unapologetic white supremacy is trending again (no, it never went out of style, just started dressing down). Remember that a right to free speech has nothing to do with holding a microphone beneath someone’s mouth. Remember that a right to free speech has nothing to do with honorariums. Remember that “free speech!” is a flimsy argument for providing platforms to white supremacy.
Remember that the voices we amplify, reverberate.
These are the moments when Middlebury as an institution gets to decide what and who it values. Y’all chose wrong.