Yale, Missouri, Amherst and Tomorrow’s Blackout

What is happening at Yale?

On October 27th, the Intercultural Affairs Committee at Yale sent out a campus-wide email. Essentially, in the email the Intercultural Affairs Committee advised Yale students to think twice about the impact that their Halloween costumes could have on the Yale community.

On October 30th, Erika Christakis, the Associate Master of Silliman College (basically the dean of one of Yale’s residential colleges), sent out an email responding directly to students frustrated by the Intercultural Affairs Committee’s email. Christakis called for students to think about “the consequences of an institutional…exercise of implied control over college students”. In sum, Christakis completely undermined the Intercultural Affairs Committee’s email by ending her email with “Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.”.

Upon reading Christakis’ email, Yale students immediately called for her resignation and the resignation of her husband, Nicholas, who supported her views. On Thursday, October 5th, students surrounded Jonathan Holloway, Yale’s first black dean and demanded he act. The incident served as another reminder to students of color of the insensitive treatment towards racial minorities.

What is happening at the University of Missouri?

On November 9th, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned after members of Concerned Student 1950 consistently demanded he resign. This student group demanded Wolfe resign after Wolfe’s consistent mishandling of and seeming indifference towards racist incidents on campus. Concerned Student 1950 is an activist group named after the year that the first black graduate student was accepted to the University of Missouri.

One student in particular, Jonathan Butler, went on a hunger strike stating that he would continue to do so until either Wolfe resigned or died. Additionally, thirty two members of the Missouri Tigers football team went on strike by refusing to play until Wolfe resigned.

On November 10th, soon after Wolfe’s resignation, threats were made on social media targeted towards students of color. Some of the posts submitted anonymously to YikYak included the following: “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see”. When students of color conveyed to their professors that they felt unsafe going to classes and returning to campus period, many professors stated that scheduled examinations would still be distributed and that “if we cancel class, then we let the bullies win”.

How is this related to what is happening at Amherst College? What is Solidarity?

When we see situations like those at Yale and the University of Missouri erupt, we must remember that their struggle is our struggle too, and that all of the systems of oppression that operate within those institutions that have led to the situations they’re facing today are present on our campus, our home, as well. We must acknowledge this and stand in solidarity with fellow students of color on campuses across the country fighting to dismantle the racism implicit within each of our institutions.

Amherst College is an institution that still symbolically supports racism through our mascot, whose administration fails to amply support its students of color, and whose student body periodically proves itself hostile to their peer students of color on this campus. Such hostility manifest itself in the daily experiences of people of color, but also in the overt racism seen in incidents such as the reactionary All Lives Matter posters placed over the defaced Black Live Matter posters last October. More recently, many staff of color have left Amherst College, most notably Mariana Cruz, the head of the Multicultural Resource Center and Chief Diversity Officer. This left the MRC understaffed at the start of this year, and there has still been no thorough explanation for Mariana’s departure.

What is Blackout?

Tomorrow, November 12th, students will wear black all day in solidarity. Please see the following message from the Black Student Union and La Causa Eboards:

The BSU E-Board invites YOU to participate as we join in solidarity with students of color at Missouri, Yale, and other academic institutions across this country. The Amherst administration has remained silent up to this point on the agenda of addressing issues important to students of color on this campus, an agenda which we as a community can no longer afford to ignore.


What about Freedom of Speech?

Over the last few days, there have been claims that it is an infringement on freedom of speech to fight for the humanity of minority groups in environments of higher learning. Student activism has been labeled as intolerant, misguided, and naïve in various publications and discussions. Many have said such activism goes too far, has been filled with too much anger, has not been “intellectual” enough.

But the truth is that fighting for racial justice should make the status quo quiver. If student activists water-down their means of dissent as to fit within the boundaries that middle-aged editorial writers from the Atlantic have set, we will be left boxed in with nowhere to go. If we attempt to minimize our action to fit within how mostly white journalists, college administrators and professors, and our peers define “civil discourse,” we will only find dismissal. So we must continue to push our campus administrations to provide the resources needed to support the diverse student body Amherst is so proud of advertising. We must push for more faculty of color. We must push our fellow classmates to face these issues and reflect on their own privilege, and we must push our community to do away with the racist imagery and symbols that pervade our campus.

To the students of color at Mizzou and Yale, we at AC Voice, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten your sense of safety, we are watching. #ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarity. We stand in solidarity with the BSU, La Causa, and with students of color across the country and beyond.

There will be a sit-in, in Frost tomorrow at 1pm, organized by Sanyu Takirambudde, Katyana Dandridge, and Lerato Teffo.