More, and Worse

Last night, sometime around 9.30, there was a knock at my door. I live in a faculty residence on campus, so I knew that this was going to be a student, but I also knew immediately that something was wrong, because my students never just drop by.

Standing on my doorstep, visibly shaking, was a white student of mine who has been particularly active in anti-racism organizing on campus — he’s been actively involved in the movement to develop a general education requirement on the Dynamics of Difference and Power, and he’s organized workshops for white students who feel solidarity with students of color on campus but who have never learned how to discuss questions surrounding race. He asked me if I’d been out in the parking lot lately, and then told me what he knew of what had happened.

What had happened was this: a visiting professor in social psychology at the college just immediately north of ours had spoken yesterday afternoon at a forum on hate speech, and quite volubly decried the covert racism and apathy she found on campus. Sometime after the forum, but before about 8.00 pm, her car was vandalized. Her tires were slashed, her windows were smashed in, and the words “K*ke Whore” and “N*gger Lover” and “Shut Up, Bitch!” were spray-painted on the car.

Our crack local police force has, in a triumph of deductive logic, managed to classify this as a hate crime.

Last night, students, administrators, and a few faculty members gathered around the car, and then in one of the dining halls, to discuss what was happening. Our president has cancelled all classes for today. Meetings, marches, sit-ins, and community meals have been scheduled in their place.

I am convinced, after a restless night of self-examination, that a tacit community acceptance of the earlier racist events as somehow being less than serious, not intentional, “just an insensitive joke,” and so forth, has allowed the racism that dwells in our midst to feel comfortable enough here to make itself plainly visible.

I’m too upset even to cry.

4 thoughts on “More, and Worse

  1. >>>I’m too upset even to cry.

    >>I am convinced, after a restless night of self-examination, that a tacit community acceptance of the earlier racist events as somehow being less than serious, not intentional, “just an insensitive joke,” and so forth, has allowed the racism that dwells in our midst to feel comfortable enough here to make itself plainly visible.

  2. Teach me to use reversed angled brackets to indicate comments on a portion of your blog entry… my comments got stripped out cuz they looked like HTML and not plain text!

    What I did express was 1) glad you’re not too upset to blog 2) remember that in your previous posts you also recorded community reactions of dissent to the characterizations offered by authorities 3)an application of narratological analysis to generate the scepticism necessary for hopeful action i.e. whether the reaction to the earlier incidents were to be screams of outrage or defiant silence does not determine the course of subsequent events [a story could be told of desparate racist attack in the face of expressions of community solidarity and anti-racist sentiment]– just a concern about spinning a narrative of guilt and powerlessness.

    And then I added something about tears and the salt of humanity….

    next time I will be cautious about pointing !

  3. How awful. I’m horrified. I’d agree with Francois that this act sounds like desperation. It’s still criminal, it’s still hatred, and it should be severly punished, but because the response is an act of violence against the professor’s car (a symbolic act against the person herself), it sounds more like a desperate attempt to upset the community consensus of disapproval. Wish I could do or say something more.

  4. That’s awful, awful.

    I was too late seeing your earlier post to feel I could add much in the way of words of consolation, but I’ll try now:

    From this distance, in the light of everything else you’ve said about about Claremont, this sounds like the act of a few who know they’re in the minority, who know they’ve lost the debate in your community, and are lashing out at the nearest available target as a way of convincing themselves that they still have power, even if it’s only destructive.

    Obviously it’s upsetting, and it’s hard to know how to stop it from happening again. But it doesn’t define your community; it only defines the disaffected in your community.

    Fortitude.

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