Posted on November 20, 2012

Diversity Day Boycott Rocks Campus

Julia Griffin, The Llama Ledger, November 17, 2012

Below is a reproduction of the Diversity Day Boycott Statement distributed throughout campus (Please note that this in no way is a reflection of the beliefs of the Llama Ledger and is a complete reproduction of the original document):

Today we are boycotting Diversity Day and all diversity-related events this week.  This is in response to recent events catalyzed by “The Diversity Day Challenge”, a document distributed by a student on campus questioning the value of diversity, and therein questioning our very existence and invalidating our lived experiences.  While the actions of this specific individual have brought to light the complete and willful failure of those in power, as well as many members of the community, to acknowledge or address the needs of students or marginalized identities, or act of resistance is not directed towards any individual but rather to a large institutional problem.  We feel that Diversity Day operates, at best, as a consolation prize where the actual needs and rights of oppressed students have been ignored.  Things we wish to bring to public attention are:

  • We have been asked to justify our feelings of being unsafe and threatened in response to a white supremacist ideology
  • We have been further victimized, we have been called “bullies,” and we have been told to tolerate intolerance
  • We have been given the message that the first amendment right of one student overrides the right of students to speak out in their own defense
  • We were publicly told by the provost, Peter Laipson, to “be mindful of strong emotions,” and have been told by the community at large to be complacent in the face of our own oppression as an ongoing defense of first amendment rights
  • The suggestion that an emotional response to harassment and hate speech is wrong or uncalled for, simply because it does not mirror the apathy of the oppressor, is a notion which necessarily arises from a position or influence of privilege or denial — It is impossible for us to not be emotionally affected and any suggestion otherwise invalidates our lived experiences and dehumanizes us
  • Our attempts at organized and peaceful protests in response to the original challenge have been silenced and labeled as unjustified and similarly intolerant
  • It has come to the public attention that the provost has, in recent decisions, explicitly gone against our wishes and best interests as a marginalized and oppressed faction, essentially legitimizing white supremacist ideologies on this campus

Students originally conceived Diversity Day as a reasoned, well-constructed and definite effort toward affecting people’s perceptions and allowing for the imminent reality of a multicultural campus to actually sink in, both on the minds of a white patriarchy but also on administration at large, but its institutionalization and subsequent edification have made it problematic.  Lived experiences are far too rich, consummate and complex to be boxed in to three workshops and a proclamation of diversity.  In a community which truly valued diversity, each day would be observed as diversity day, and in every day, the needs of the marginalized students in this community would be met and with dignity and respect.  It is perhaps impossible for those in a position of privilege to truly understand the daily lived experiences of the oppressed; what is possible is respect and genuine empathy for those who have been silenced, but those two things cannot be the sole responsibility of those students labeled as representative of diversity.  Unless those in positions of power are willing to recognize their role in a larger system of oppression and take the burden of broadening their horizons upon themselves, there can be no real and earnest social change to this campus.