White supremacy is the force that has worked since the genocide of indigenous bodies and continued into trans-Atlantic slave trade by justifying the slaughter and subjugation of non-white bodies. It is the force that pervades institutions and systems by asserting an inferiority of ability and intellect in black and brown minds, and one that criminalizes black and brown bodies by funneling them into the prison system for further submission (slavery was outlawed in the constitution except in the case of prisoners, so free/cheap labor is still a thing). White supremacy is not just a personal view, but the foundational ideology that permeates our society that white people are superior and therefore dictate conditions for everyone. Further, it is not simply as blatant as waving confederate flags and using the n-word: White supremacy also encompasses the implicit bias of how people should talk, think, and act, and the notion that blackness and brownness never conform to these ideals.

I write this piece at this time not because I want remorse, nor because I have given up the fight, but because hindsight has shown me a lot. I understand that it is not easy for a person not of color to fully grasp how white supremacy affects people of color on every level. I also acknowledge that there are white people who get it and people of color who don’t. It is about who is conscious of the systems of oppression that function throughout the globe. Still, this gap of understanding must be bridged if we ever hope to live in a society that is truly equitable for all. This was one of the goals of the efforts of Black Lives Matter activists, and frankly, conversations about race and inequality were the ones that should have taken place after the publication of Stascavage’s article instead of conversations about the alleged infringement of the free speech of a privileged white man.

With that being said, I also do not write this to educate. To those who wish to engage in discourse on why the Black Lives Matter movement is a viable movement, pick up a copy of The Ankh, Wesleyan’s student of color publication (or follow it on social media). Attend a Black Lives Matter event organized by your peers. Read something online (joincampaignzero.org is a great resource) and educate yourself! I am not here to educate you on your terms. I am here to amplify the thoughts and voices of myself and those I have worked with on a platform that reaches the masses, because no one else has tried to do so. Primarily, my goal in writing this is to redirect the conversation to the ways in which white supremacy, without fail, devalues black and brown lives and voices.

White supremacy allows Stascavage’s “opinions” to be commonplace. Those who don’t experience racism (and therefore don’t truly understand it) are somehow allowed to have a say in how (not) to combat it, which is just as ridiculous as someone standing on an island telling someone drowning in the ocean with weights tied to their ankles how to swim to the island. Outcries of the oppressed are met with excuses or aberrations from the oppressors, undermining the foundation of the movement. Bringing up distractions like “black on black crime” or “but police are killed by black people” shows how little one understands about the conditions of blackness: the ways in which blacks are kept poor and offered limited mobility, how racial profiling in the criminal justice system works, and how black people aren’t the only ones who commit interracial crime (crazy, I know!). These “opinions” basically ignore that white supremacy even exists and imply that everyone is equal with the same opportunities and conditions of life, which is just false.

When faced with this article that reeked of racism between its lines, I, and others who organized and shared that pain with me, did not feel that anything but a boycott would work. Here’s why: A boycott is a refusal to support an institution. Those who cried, “Well why don’t you just write a response?” missed that the entire point was trying to change The Argus at its core. If students of color are only encouraged to write when our lives are under attack, why should we write at all? In addition to issues between Black Lives Matter student activists and The Argus just last semester, there were many alumni of color who reached out to activists saying that The Argus also failed to be inclusive during their times at Wes (which, fun fact, is why The Ankh was founded in the 1980s). We wanted to end the cycle of The Argus not being what its mission claims, which is a student publication. Students of color are students, too. If there is no meaningful representation, then you are not fulfilling your mission.

Given this, the widespread claim that the petition was a call for censorship is grossly misrepresenting its core intentions. This claim implies that the petition was formed primarily with the goal of silencing one voice instead of stimulating positive change for an entire institution. The petition’s demands only had to do with structural change within The Argus, such as creating work-study positions and having open and active recruitment. How did a conversation that began with how The Argus can be more inclusive turn into one about censorship and harassment? Is it really that difficult to see why people who are being killed for their skin color are upset whenever their fight for humanity is questioned? Of course that does not warrant harassment, or censorship, but here’s the thing—none of those things actually happened.

Here’s what happened:

1.  The conversation was able to be redirected from “How and why is this article extremely problematic, and how does The Argus have a history of being un-inclusive to students of color?” to, “Why can’t this white man say whatever he wants without consequences?”

2. The feelings and experiences of the black and brown students who were upset by this article were invalidated because black and brown people’s anger is automatically portrayed as threatening. It’s a ridiculous notion that because students went to the Argus meeting they were “harassing” the editors of The Argus. The editors of the Argus themselves asserted that they never once felt harassed, so that claim is nothing but a lie.

3. The President and Provost of the University, along with the Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, set this redirection in place when they somehow found it appropriate not only to reach out to Stascavage, but then to also publish a blog post titled “Black Lives Matter and So Does Free Speech.” The misconception that it is somehow valid to have a conversation about who is included and whose voice is targeted by censorship without historical and present-day societal context was furthered especially by VP Farias’ signature. Whose voice was valued here? Certainly not mine or those of any other Black Lives Matter activists.

4. Outside media had a field day with the President’s blog post and spread misinformation while still speaking only to The Argus and Stascavage, not thinking that it would maybe be a good idea to get the perspective of the students in opposition. It wouldn’t be useful to fact-check with its opposition because then people would actually have to get to the nitty-gritty of how and why students of color are saying that racism and white supremacy are demonstrated in their campus newspaper.

In each of these steps, while people were trying to protect Stascavage’s right to spew hatred, who was protecting activists’ right to call that out? White supremacy does not value the voices of its opposition, because doing so would make it available for destruction. The majority of the campus, the President and Vice President of Equity & Inclusion, and outside media were worse than complacent; their actions (however unintentional) upheld the norm of white supremacy, and silenced students of color. The irony of it all is extremely hurtful.

Once outside media initiated the shit-storm, the rhetoric was no longer in control of the organizers of the petition and boycott. White supremacy proved very successful. Now pinned against the wall, other activists and I find ourselves unsure of how to proceed.

We refuse to allow white supremacy to go unchecked, but a lot of damage has already been done. I acknowledge and am happy that The Argus has already begun implementing some changes to its treatment of race, but we need meaningful representation and actual equity for the rest of The Argus’ existence as the student newspaper. In the coming years, I want students of color and other marginalized students to be enthusiastic about sharing their experiences with the rest of campus. I am excited to see whether we are able to ameliorate misunderstanding and have two-way conversations that refuse to honor white supremacy.

James is a member of the Class of 2018.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently you have chosen to lean nothing from this episode. To influence, you must understand. To be principled, you must be truthful. Threatening to destroy copies of a paper is not a “boycott” or “calling out”, it is censorship. Demanding space on the front page of a newspaper that your anointed few will curate smacks of the injustice you purport to be against, unless you subscribe to the notion that you can anoint speakers for the oppressed. And do you really believe anyone can change minds starting from a position like “I am not here to educate you on your terms”?

    You did indeed miss an opportunity to start a constructive conversation on race, but you missed it because of your own disingenuousness and hubris.

  • Snowblinded

    This is.. incomprehensible. The structure of the first sentence is quite bad. It’s Sarah Palin-level word salad.. I hope you improve your writing in future efforts.

    • Earl of Sandwich

      Clarity & logic are tools of the Caucasian-dominant patriarchy.

  • JennyS

    In your world are Jews white?

  • Anonymous

    Militant thugs don’t like their motives and actions being scrutinized.
    BLM is nothing more than a racist, violent group that targets whites and cops. While the Argus staff recoils in horror at the thought of the BLM being poked in the eye by the truth, the threats and violence continue unabated:

    http://www.youngcons.com/video-shows-black-lives-matter-founder-leading-group-in-burn-everything-down-chant/ http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/09/03/vox-riots-arson-and-shootings-aside-black-lives-matter-is-pretty-peaceful/

    The movement was co-founded by three black activists: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. All three of those squalling she-asses are chock full of “white supremacy”, “anti-blackness”, and “state violence” demagoguery. Their idol is black militant Assata Shakur, otherwise known as Joanne Deborah Chesimard, a radical feminist and Marxist revolutionary who escaped from prison in 1979 while serving a life sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. She’s on the FBI’s wanted domestic terrorist list.

    Kudos to SSG Stascavage for his articulate, pointed dissection of the ‘black lives matter’ shit.

    This “white supremacy” mantra is a load of shit.

    My stock answer to the race baiting “white privilege” crowd:

    I keep hearing the phrases “white privilege” and “check your privilege” every time one of these racist spokes-pimps gives a speech for the cameras. I want to know where the hell I can get mine. My environment
    was far from prosperous. I come from a working class family in a racially ‘diverse’, economically depressed
    neighborhood. My mother raised 7 kids, mostly by herself. We all worked. My two older step sisters worked two part time jobs, and my mother worked to make ends meet. It was a hell of a struggle. I joined the Army at the age of 18 and served a total of 30 years (20 Active, 10 reserve). My skin color didn’t exempt me from two combat tours in Iraq. My Associates Degree was earned at a community college because that’s all my GI Bill and pocket could afford. My pension is still not enough to cover all the bills, but I still have Social Security to look forward to. Whoopie. No one gave me a free meal ticket because I’m a hyphenated ‘Caucasian’. Some people may have a terminal case of white guilt, but I have no reason to feel guilty. I’m Irish, Scots, German, and Cherokee. I will never apologize for my heritage, ethnicity or skin color. Get over it.

    Tedra James can kiss my bare, white ass.

    • Anonymous

      You should not be using the Army seal as an avatar for your personal anger and hate.

      • Anonymous

        I use the Army seal because I’ve earned it. The level of hate, rhetoric, and demagoguery in the BLM ‘movement’ is what should concern you, sweetpea. I’m angry at their idiocy, their hatespeech, their victimology, and their propensity to blame their own faults, character flaws, and bad behavior on “whitey”. You shouldn’t be commenting unless you know what the hell you’re talking about.

      • Anonymous

        A stint in the service doesn’t earn anyone the right to associate this kind of stuff with the Army. Keep doing the tough guy act if you want, but I’ll give you a hint, it comes off as weak.

        You didn’t even bother to read the words, just lashed out at NPR. Ironically you probably believe you’re more informed than most. I would have thought a really tough guy could at least read words that might be different from what he wanted to believe.

      • Anonymous

        A stint? Try 30 years. (10 reserve, 20 active) and two tours in Iraq. When you’ve humped a ruck instead of some BLM leg, you can talk. I don’t have to read the words of some left-leaning hack to know what BLM is all about. Their behavior makes it obvious. Just because you sympathize with a group of punks who use skin color as a political agenda, doesn’t mean the rest of us buy it. You’re lame.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t like NPR? Look him up elsewhere ( I know you won’t, too scary to leave your bubble). And your guesses about my age and politics are as far off the mark as the rest of your talk. Best wishes.

      • Anonymous

        The way you comment tells me that whatever your chronological age, your mental capacity is lacking.

  • Landy Man

    “People of no color?” Heck white is a color. So basically you start off ludicrous….Enough said

  • Earl of Sandwich

    “”White supremacy is the force that has worked since the genocide of
    indigenous bodies and continued into trans-Atlantic slave trade by
    justifying the slaughter and subjugation of non-white bodies.””

    Not an English major, then?

  • Earl of Sandwich

    I’d call this a Manifesto, but then, that would be sexist

  • alum

    “If students of color are only encouraged to write when our lives are under attack, why should we write at all?”
    Can you give an example where white students are encouraged to write? I’m fairly certain the Argus doesn’t go out of its way to cater to white students. If you can give an example, please enlighten me.

    “In each of these steps, while people were trying to protect Stascavage’s right to spew hatred, who was protecting activists’ right to call that out?”

    The Argus was and is protecting that right for you, which can be exercised by writing a WeSpeak (which the Argus will publish). Because it is a journalistic institution.

    • CoryIntheHouse

      Don’t you get it though? They can’t just write stuff. They have to be “encouraged” because apparently they are different than other students.
      Absolute idiocy.

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  • you blew it

    well tedre we COULD have had a conversation have had a conversation on these issues but you did not want one. did any of the boycotters try to pick apart his logic and opinion and show why he was wrong? no. did anyone ever try to fact check him? no. did anyone even make an effort? no. what happened was you guys delivered an ultimatum that said shut up and that was it. I.DO NOT RESPECT THAT FROM ANYONE OF ANY CAUSE. and even now you choose to make excuses.

  • this opinion

    troll logic maximus.

  • CoryIntheHouse

    This is one of the dumbest things i’ve ever seen put to print. You should be ashamed of yourself for how clearly stupid you are.

  • CliotoCalliope

    This is a craven and cynical misrepresentation of what happened. Really, do you have no shame? Apparently, recent events– events visible to everyone– can be reconstructed to present as victims a group that actually wielded quite a lot of power in this case. Individuals are not simply representatives of larger social forces, racist or otherwise. Stascavage is not simply a proxy for white supremacy (!), and nor are the students who criticized him proxies for the experience of those most affected by the existing inequities in society– however they misrepresented themselves. The more responses of this sort I read, the more convinced I am that the victimhood culture Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning described is a real trend with potentially disastrous effects for us all. And don’t tell me the trends are about empathy. There isn’t an ounce of empathy in this editorial. There is merely bile.

  • Karl Rogers

    I am not here to educate you = I will not have a discussion with you, you just have to listen to me.

    I hope sincerely that you find a well paying job as a social justice warrior upon graduation because you will not last a day in an actual workplace.

  • RJMA3

    At first I thought this article was serious and I was laughing. Then I realized it was just really good satire and I laughed even harder.

    “my goal in writing this is to redirect the conversation to the ways in which white supremacy, without fail, devalues black and brown lives and voices.”

    LOL. Almost had me

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  • Media

    RE: No. 4 — a number of people did reach out to her and other petitioners, but they refused to give interviews

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  • Ty Tansel

    It’s horseshit rhetoric like this that is giving Wesleyan a bad name all across america. Good job.

  • Jim Scotts

    Quite sad that there are these off the wall racist beliefs originating from somewhat respected university.

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  • bwayjunction

    Dear Tedra James, having read your article gives me pause about the state of critical thinking or lack thereof in the Black Community or at least the part of the community you claim to represent. You seem not to understand the irony implicit in your convoluted appeals to dialogue in a way other than the normative way known as ‘Freedom of Speech’. You want a new set of rules. You want your Master, the White Man, the University to create those rules, so that life on the plantation can be better, so that you can feel safe and yet, still be bonded. Freedom is an awesome thing. You should try it sometime.

  • caso0

    Time to unleash Thomas Sowell on this social justice warrior claptrap of an article. He would make quick work of this drivel by Ms James. Tendra, have you taken the time to read and thoughtfully refute Mr Sowell? I know you can’t.

  • Oswald Bates

    Tedra demanded the Argus to reserve part of the front page of every Argus for articles she deemed worthy. With writing this bad, that would have been the only way she’d get a spot on the front page of any publication.

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