Amid the many conversations these past two weeks about racism and free speech at Yale University, one moment stood out. In November, hundreds gathered and expressed their grievances about the treatment of students of color to Jonathan Holloway, the first African-American dean of Yale College. Holloway, a historian of civil rights, is at the center of a campus conflict about liberalism and education as well as the meaning of an inclusive community. We spoke to him about the origins of the protests and their implications for other institutions.
Can you describe what the climate is on campus now?
I can’t speak to the graduate professional students because I don’t work with them. The undergraduates are, well, exhausted. What I think they are feeling is that they are part of something larger than their own existence, with all these rallies happening across the country—that they are living a very special moment.
I understand that. This is not just a black problem or a brown problem or a women’s problem or whatever. We are seeing a generation of students, and I don’t know why, who do seem less resilient than in the past. I think part of it is that things aren’t mediated like they have been in the past. You don’t have the luxury of sitting down and pondering what somebody just said, because you’re too busy putting it into a Tweet and saying, “This is an outrage.” There’s no mediation of ideas. It’s all off the top of my head and it’s pain, in this case.
THE REAL BATTLE ON RACISM (Huff Post)
I’ve been called “white-washed” when I didn’t speak with a Jackie Chan accent and was called “too Asian” when I brought rice dishes to school. I’ve been called “Ching” and “Chong” and everything in between.
But the debate on the merits of whether or not people should be offended has clouded the most important observation in the recent protests: that college campuses are the epicenter of this awakening.
College Campuses and the “Subtle Racist”
Yale University’s motto is “Lux et Vertitas,” which is Latin for “light and truth.” It’s actually a perfect mantra: modest, clear and direct. For most of us, college is not just a venue for learning Keynesian economics or hyper-analyzing the rhetoric of Thomas Paine’s letters. There’s immense social discovery that comes with navigating the first stages of life as an independent person.
For this reason it makes perfect sense that a national conversation on race would rumble beneath the campuses across the country. The simultaneous outburst of tension at Mizzou and Yale is even more remarkable when considering that one is a public school in a state where the Ferguson riots took place while the other is a prestigious private school in liberal New England. Together, they represent all corners of the country and paint an ugly portrait of our nation where it’s apparent that racism exists. Everywhere.