Occupy Scalia, Decolonize Wesleyan
The following Wespeak was collectively authored by a number of involved students, including the following: Virgil Taylor ’15, Ross Levin ’15, Nico Vitti ’12, Paul Blasenheim ’12, Zak Kirwood ’12, Cheryl Walker ’12, Meggie McGuire ’12, Mariama Eversley ’14, Isabelle Gauthier ’14, Josh Krugman ’14, Joseph Cribb ’13, Hannah Rubin ’13, Cesar Chavez ’15, Dan Fischer ’12, and Mica Taliaferro ’12. Though it may be written from a first-person perspective, it should be taken as a collective statement of these signers and the larger collective organizing dissent for Scalia’s arrival.
As many of these Wespeaks and numerous scholars have argued, the shamefully corrupt Antonin Scalia today represents the worst in homophobic, white supremacist, Islamophobic, patriarchal, and violent politics wielded to uphold the status quo (indeed, he is the furthest thing from “Justice” one can imagine). He strategically uses “Originalist” doctrine to obscure and simultaneously uphold histories of white supremacy and colonial genocide (of which he has been wildly successful, since such values are certainly written into the original intent of the U.S. Constitution). His policies have directly harmed and silenced students on this campus, and countless more across the globe who are unable to access an elite(ist) institution such as Wesleyan.
So where do we go from here? Do we take the path prescribed by Michael Roth, and act as if Scalia is merely an academic figure with whom we may politely disagree, but whose voice is needed in order to create a true, academic environment? Or do we stand by those who have suffered violence at the implementation end of his ideologies, make our dissent known as a force that actually BRINGS deeper academic value to the event, and stand up for justice in the face of oppression? We choose the latter.
If you consider yourself committed to the abolition of institutionalized violence, and for the realization of true justice from below, we implore you to express your dissent on the day of Scalia’s arrival, in whatever way is best for you and your community (chalking, protesting, organizing counter-events, hosting critical discussions, organizing justice-oriented events, etc.). In essence, we call on all people of conscience to “Occupy Scalia.”
But Scalia’s arrival, and the moral imperative to confront him and “Occupy” his time at Wesleyan, can only go so far in the struggle to dismantle the oppressive institutions which have created a world of massive institutional violence, wealth disparity, environmental degradation and systematic erasure. The next step is to turn our dissent inward, confronting the underlying institutionalized values which have allowed for this despicable event to occur in the first place. We need to go beyond “Occupying” our campus. The time has come to Decolonize Wesleyan.
What would it mean to decolonize Wesleyan? What manifestations of colonial logic are present here on campus, and on other campuses across this country? This must be a meditated, long-term discussion, and what follows is only a rudimentary beginning. Colonial values of domination, white supremacy, genocide and erasure can be seen in covert forms everywhere at Wesleyan. From our hierarchical, non-transparent administrative structure, to the massive wealth disparities evident across the spectrum of employees of the institution; from Wesleyan’s continued illegal holding of Native American remains in direct violation of federal law, to the shamefully low number of native/indigenous students and faculty welcomed at this institution; from the tokenizing positions of student power given to the generally powerless Wesleyan Student Assembly, to the consolidation and institutionalization of grassroots student activism into intern positions, to the entirely secret batch of super-wealthy Trustees who control most power at this institution and are simultaneously most detached from its current students, Wesleyan’s practices of domination and control are evident (but in many cases, as with the Trustees, strategically invisible).
Even Wesleyan’s claim to “Diversity University”—which has been shamefully distorted to justify Scalia’s presence and to erase from view his violent impacts by our dear President Roth—carries a white supremacist attitude, since so many diversity initiatives are mainly implemented to benefit the expanded learning environment of the white, heterosexual, wealthy male crowd for whom this institution was built. Many students of color, international students, students with disabilities, radical/non-politically “Left” students, low-income students and countless others who are pushed to the margins (and therefore targeted for recruitment at very small and token levels) have historically voiced concerns of alienation and exclusion by the part of the Administration and the still-predominantly white, middle to upper middle class student body, and demanded that this institution take transformative steps to make this campus a safe space for all of its students, something many of us continue to demand today.
Let us never stop simply at “Occupying Scalia,” because Scalia, though a powerful individual, is really just a puppet in a larger system of domination embedded into the framework of the United States, which has seeped into the administrative attitude of Wesleyan. We must confront his violence, certainly. But we cannot stop there. More conversations about envisioning a decolonized Wesleyan must occur, and we need to begin to understand how the ideologies spouted by bigots like Scalia are in full force, in less obvious ways, here at Wesleyan.