Monday, May 14, 2007

can't be gettin' mad?

So it seems only fitting that my first real post on this blog be about whatever it is that is filling me with rage at this particular minute. And that, in case you haven’t heard, is racism. Turns out it’s everywhere, but most recently, it’s in the Quad. Brittany already posted about this, but didn't really give the background, so just in case you were wondering, here's the scoop: Yesterday was the ABHW/BMF challenge, so the two groups reserved the courtyard outside of Cabot House for a fun-filled day of capture the flag, relay races, spades, and taboo. Unfortunately, many quad residents were apparently unaware of the planned festivities, and awkwardness ensued. An email was sent out over Cabot-Open inquiring about the trespassers:

"Why did a group of random people come and take down the barriers protecting the newly seeded part of the Quad? Seems a little presumptuous for a group of people - especially a group that isn't Harvard students (they seem too young, at least from here) - to take that barrier down so they can use OUR Quad.... Now what if the grass never grows in and the senior have to graduate in the middle of a big muddy...

Seriously some girl is drawing a field in the dirt using her heel...that is crazy! Can we call HUPD?"

although a response was posted not long afterwards explaining that this was a black community event, list discussion continued to center around the "non-harvard students" invading the quad, and HUPD was actually called! now if we were all polite, subdued negroes, perhaps that would have been that. however understandably, several people were upset, and some emails were sent. one email that seems to have upset a lot of the non-black participants in the Cabot-Open discussion said simply,

"y'all freakin out cuz there are a lot of black people in the quad??

sheesh. calling hupd, really... wow."

oh no, someone played the race card. all of a sudden everyone is up in arms. and by that, i mean that white people are freaking out. the accusation of racism has spurred the traditional complete and total panic/denial. Everyone immediately went on the defensive, and a flurry of emails flew back and forth debating whether or not the calling of HUPD was racism. Out of those emails came, surprise surprise, more racism. I'm paraphrasing, of course. For a much more detailed summary of what happened, I'd look to Katie's post on cambridgecommon. But I think you have enough information now for me to move on.

So what bothers me here are SEVERAL things:
1. the initial racism. I think it's ridiculous that we are even questioning this. From a fourth-floor window, a student looks out on the courtyard and sees a group of black people playing games. Most of them are wearing either ABHW or BMF t-shirts. Is it possible to tell how old they are? I kind of doubt it. Is it possible that the student is really completely color-blind and did not even notice their black skin? hah. From what I know of the student who sent the initial email, I don't doubt that there was no malice or conscious racism at all in his actions. He simply looked out, saw a group of people that he doubted were harvard students, and got pissed because let's face it - there are always people all up on the quad with their children and dogs, and after a while you just want to live. But come on, people. the fact that a group of black students were immediately assumed to be "non-harvard" is a problem. let's not try and pretend no one noticed they were black.

2. the subsequent e-racism. first of all, i consider denial of racism to be a form of racism. People like to think they're being neutral and fair by saying "well maybe there's no connection." that's not neutral. who was it that said...ah yes, martin luther king jr., i believe. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." if you don't speak out AGAINST racism, you are speaking for it.
"I think people would've questioned whether or not they were affiliated with Harvard regardless of race."
really? because there are white people on the quad every day. and as far as i can tell, HUPD isn't thinking about hiring more police for quad patrol.

"have a little faith that your classmates aren't racist."
where exactly should that faith come from? experience? oh yeah. like the several times the police have been called on black male students simply because they were "looking sketchy" by a dorm, or maybe the time a friend of mine was warned about a "pack of black guys" standing outside of Eliot House. Or maybe yesterday when THIS gem was posted to Cabot-Open...

"I don't participate in cabot open discussions usually...
because they're SO RACIST! all you white people - you scare me! can't you understand... it's hard to be black!!! ITS SO HARD!!! and if you think this is a joke it's cuz you have a racist sense of humor.
oh yeah. when my inbox is filled with shit like this, i have TOTAL faith that my classmates are not racists. and don't even get me STARTED on the offensive bullshit i had to listen to during the list discussions in my own living hell known as Eliot House about the Stand4Security campaign (apparently security guards are lazy and don't deserve a living wage) or the infamous house dues debacle of 2006 (why DON'T i just go get a job at subway and shut the fuck up?). Newsflash: we live in a racist society, and harvard university is one of the most racist places i've ever had the pleasure of encountering. No, i don't have faith in you. sorry.

3. and this post is getting long, so i will try to wrap it up, but what has bothered me perhaps the most is the way that time and time again, in this incident and in others, the burden seems to fall entirely on black people to resolve the conflict. Now that we've accused you of racism, it seems that your feelings are hurt, and we're to blame. Every time something like this happens, white people get upset at the "unfair accusations" being hurled at them. Black people are asked to react calmly and politely, to "educate" the white people on why exactly they're upset. maybe to hold a discussion in which 40 black people show up and only 7 white people. and the 7 who do show up are not the ones who were being racist over email 2 hours earlier. So yeah. i'm fucking pissed. And i don't think i should have to explain to you WHY this is racism, and i really don't think i should have to apologize for swearing just now because you wanna know what? swearing is a way of expressing rage, and that is how i'm feeling. i don't see how it's in any way fair that someone can imply over email that black people are lazy, that poor people steal, that women who get raped are just "asking for it," and then I am the unreasonable one for being impolite? no. fuck you. i think it's high time black people stopped trying to act "reasonable" when we're living in this den of racism. fuck that, let's riot.


Jersey Slugger said...

Wonderful. I'm excited to hear ya'lls thoughts. Spit that hot fire, sistas.

Jersey Slugger said...

- Chip

Lori said...

YES it's about damn time y'all got a blog going!!! I'm real excited about this.

As usual, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about how/why it all went down and I truly share your anger on this one.

i have not written an email yet about the cabot incident but i have been monitoring cabot open and reading people's reactions and getting nothing but angrier and angrier about it.

Regardless of what one thinks about the initial questioning of our presence on the precious cabot grass (I think it was obviously race-related but whatever- even if you hypothetically thought it wasn't), i think anyone can agree that the RESPONSES to that email and the stuff that has been going over cabotopen for the past 2 days have been incredibly racist, angry, and demeaning. some of this shit is simply unacceptable, ie that email from the pfoho resident making light of this whole thing by mock-complaining about how hard it is to be black here.

But for me, the absolute WORST response came from the cabot housemaster himself!! Because he is such a public figure with the ultimate authority in that house, his words could mean a lot and he could have done a lot to use this incident as a springboard for identifying actual tensions that exist within this community. HOWEVER, hinging onto the idea that denying or making light of racism is just...welll...more racism, I think it is impossible to call the housemaster's email anything but what it was-
some of the most infuriatingly insufficient pieceoftrash holier-than-thou BULL I've ever seen. I ESPECIALLY protest to the fact that the housemaster is in no way conscious of his own OUTSIDER status as he writes the email, several times referencing OTHER PEOPLE'S "pain" and "humiliation", and thinks it HIS PLACE to take some sort of stance on when these are justifiable. ugh. anger. and it just makes it SO much worse that he is the housemaster and the only response he could muster was a painfully inadequate commentary and ACADEMIC DIATRIBE. so inappropriate, in my opinion. I think the fact that he felt a need to theorize and reference language scholars to comment on this issue just shows 2 things:
1) his INABILITY to relate on a personal level --> how problematic it is that there are so few black leaders-professors, tf's, advisors, etc, just basically people of authority here who can relate to these issues
2) the huge roadblock many people here have in their minds, where racism is some nebulous concept out THERE as opposed to "racial incidents" which happen HERE but are anomalies and can't possibly have anything to do with that terrible vague racism that exists over there.

i second the calls of genevieve, amanda, kaya, and others who see a need for action in the wake of this incident. i think we should pick a day this week when it is nice outside, perhaps wednesday, and all just study outside on the quad, en masse. like 200 of us. that would be tight and i think it would get the point across that we are a united community and that we feel entitlement here, even if that entitlement is constantly questioned. this is probably unrealistic but I'm jus saying I feel a real need to demonstrate my anger in a visible public forum and make a lot of people as uncomfortable as they made our community.

Thanks again for starting this blog Kaya and Brit, and I'm really looking forward to your future posts!

Malakim said...


You're angry and that's understandable and perfectly legitimate. Be angry.

But be angry to yourself and to your friends, not to the people you're trying to convince that Harvard is a racist school and that racism is still a reality.

Anger begets anger, do we really need a reminder of that? All of the elements of this blog post--rage, swearing, flippant comments--well, let's just say I hope none of your "racist" friends in Cabot see this. This is not a resolution-oriented post, but will only fuel the flames and convince people that you really are exaggerating things and psychotic and playing the victim. Which I know are not true.

Here's to hoping your next post has more logic and less rage. Because everything you said is right on, but you sure don't give whites much reason to believe you.

julia said...

you guys and this blog ROCK!! I'm so glad to have it to read. Totally true: racism at harvard is terribly GAHH WTF?!?.

Endria said...

this is fantastic. FANTASTIC.

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