Coming at a time when racist backlash is rampant on college campuses across the country, Mytheos Holt’s column was especially appalling. Like the events at University of California San Diego and the University of Missouri, Holt’s column is not an “isolated incident.” It is not an aberration from the normal course of events. Instead, I see his attitude as symptomatic of much racism and sexism expressed at Wesleyan.
According to Holt, Dr. Price is too angry, emotional, and irrational to do her job. His accusations fall squarely within the lines of stereotyping Dr. Price as an “angry black woman.” He alleges that Dr. Price “has already shown herself to be incapable of looking past her political biases” and that her political views will inevitably incapacitate her in the position of intern coordinator. His argument continues with him claiming that she therefore cannot act as a professional. I see Holt’s comments as symptomatic of the campus environment because I have heard students with a wide range of political views level similar criticisms at other professors, especially female professors of color. I have heard students say that these professors were unable to respond rationally to students’ opinions that were different from their own. These criticisms smack of racism and sexism just as Holt’s column does.
I also feel that Holt distorts reality in a way that is common on campus when he writes: “Fortunately, non-academic employers do not look at the world through such red, black and green colored glasses, and nor should career services, whose job is to promote Wesleyan students in the real world, not to worship at the altar of multicultural kumbaya-ism.” Here, Holt alleges that the university has acted in the interest of black radicalism. The university’s lack of response when students were viciously attacking Dr. Price during her tenure case shows that this is most certainly not true. But, unlike in the world Holt believes we live in, if the university had responded, it would have been because they understand the climate that exists in academia for women of color.
I think that the picture Holt paints is related to a reaction that I have commonly seen other students have to accusations of racism and sexism. Many accuse those students who draw attention to the operations of white supremacy and misogyny of “political correctness” and “taking this stuff too far.” These reactions are often stronger and more numerous than people’s responses to actual manifestations of racism and sexism. They serve the same purpose as Holt’s statement, distorting reality and distracting us from examining the racism and sexism that most certainly do exist on campus. Let us take the moment of the publishing of Holt’s column to reflect on the ways these systems manifest themselves in our lives rather than isolating Holt as their sole remaining advocate.