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
To the President, Administrators, and Professors at Middlebury College,
I am the white older sibling of a student of color at your school and I am writing to express solidarity with the students that protested against Charles Murray’s appearance. I am not sure what possessed you to move forward with his lecture after over 800 Middlebury students and alumni voiced opposition – in particular, a majority of your students of color – but I am deeply disappointed that you did not take this opportunity to listen to the people whose lives are directly impacted by the continued popularity of his racist rhetoric.
I understand that as an institution of learning, you have a responsibility to challenge your students and provide an atmosphere open to intellectual debate. In general, I believe it is important to include some viewpoints that differ from the general political atmosphere of the campus. However, you also have a responsibility to uphold the humanity and dignity of your students of color, which is not possible if that dignity and humanity are considered an appropriate topic of debate on campus.
Charles Murray’s invitation to appear on your campus, especially in view of his incredibly offensive remarks about your black students during his last visit (in particular that they probably hadn’t actually earned a place at Middlebury and would be better off attending easier schools), indicates that you believe such a debate would be appropriate and acceptable. Indeed, in interviews with The New York Times, several well-meaning white students and professors indicated that they had planned to “challenge” Murray with questions over his views on the genetic inferiority of black people and related topics. What your administration at large seems not to grasp is that just the exculpating possibility of genetic inferiority plays heavily into the systems of oppression facing your students of color today. Additionally, this debate is not intellectually productive since people who continue to hold such beliefs are clearly not interested in the ample scientific evidence to the contrary. Allowing such a debate does little but normalize that kind of bigotry and casually dehumanize your students of color.
There are always an infinite number of stupid and harmful theories in the world – many of which are promoted by apparently educated and well-spoken idealogues like Murray, who lend their beliefs a veneer of scholarly credibility – and to pretend that your institution would be willing to engage with any and all of them would be patently absurd. By action or inaction, you always end up drawing a line somewhere. I understand the impulse to uphold his access to a platform at your school in the name of “balance” and “fairness”, but the world we live in is neither balanced nor fair, especially for your students of color, who face continual prejudice and exclusion even at liberal bastions like Middlebury. That exclusion is highlighted when a discredited, racist “scholar” can be invited to speak on campus over the objection of some of your most politically vulnerable students. In the current political climate, your students of color face a rising tide of white backlash against their right to exist as distinct and whole individuals with inalienable human rights. They deserve protection from the hateful ideology and rhetoric that follows people like Murray around. It was your responsibility to draw a line on behalf of your students of color and you failed spectacularly. And then you failed spectacularly at just listening to your students of color. And then you failed spectacularly at dealing with the consequences of your first two failures and instead doubled down on your mistake and made everything harder for your students of color by bringing the debate about whether or not their humanity ought to be debatable front and center in their lives.
Do you think they enjoy having to organize? Do you think it’s fun to take on a power structure that has such complete power over your life at school? It’s terrifying. And it’s WORK. This is not something my kid sibling should have to be doing to protect themselves from YOUR mistakes, all while still juggling a full course load and a job and growing into the extra-capable adult that society requires people of color to become. We trusted YOU with their well-being. We trusted YOU to draw that line and honor the human dignity of all of your students of color, including my sibling. The LEAST you could have done was trust them when they told you the line was being crossed.
Do better Middlebury,