The president of prestigious Smith College is red-faced and apologetic Tuesday for telling students on the Northampton, Mass., campus that “all lives matter.”
Kathleen McCartney wrote the phrase in the subject line of an e-mail to students at the school, whose alumni include feminists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and celebrity chef Julia Child. McCartney was attempting to show support for students protesting racially charged grand jury decisions in which police in Missouri and New York were not charged in the deaths of unarmed black men.
Protesters have adopted several slogans in connection with the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, including “Black Lives Matter.” McCartney’s more inclusive version of the refrain was seen as an affront that diminished the focus on black lives and racism, according to emails obtained by FoxNews.com.
“We are united in our insistence that all lives matter,” read the e-mail, in which she made clear she was strongly behind the protests, writing that the grand jury decisions had “led to a shared fury . . . We gather in vigil, we raise our voices in protest.”
But she soon received backlash from students for her phrasing. They were offended that she did not stick with the slogan “black lives matter.”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, which first covered the story, quoted one Smith sophomore, Cecelia Lim, as saying, “it felt like she was invalidating the experience of black lives.”
In response to student backlash, McCartney apologized in another campus-wide email Friday, saying she had made a mistake “despite my best intentions.”
In her apology e-mail, McCartney also shared some of the student emails she received.
She quoted one student as saying: “It minimizes the anti-blackness of this the current situation; yes, all lives matter, but not all lives are being targeted for police brutality. The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.”
Some who follow campus issues say that the idea of apologizing for saying “all lives matter” shows political correctness is out of control.
“It’s getting increasingly difficult to figure out what you can say on the modern campus, even for university presidents . . . Too many of today’s students want freedom from speech rather than freedom of speech,” Greg Lukianoff, President of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and author of “Freedom From Speech” told FoxNews.com.