Looking out over our shaken campus today, it’s uncanny to recall the one short week that brought us to this point. Over five years of political and racial passions bubbling through our generation look tame next to these seven odd days, as if all the previous campus outbursts were merely a prolonged first chapter.
Watching these events unfold from Hanover, no one could have doubted that the movement would make its way to Dartmouth within the week. But the particular form that our own iteration took on the night of November 12 was a shock, even to the by-now seasoned souls of students who have witnessed the past years. The tactics, tone, and words of the Black Lives Matter protesters eerily mirrored everything they claim to stand against. The long list of their clear oversteps should spark a moment of reckoning for every honest onlooker, and especially those who have sympathized with their movement to this point.
Black-clad protesters gathered in front of Dartmouth Hall, forming a crowd roughly one hundred fifty strong. Ostensibly there to denounce the removal of shirts from a display in Collis, the Black Lives Matter collective began to sing songs and chant their eponymous catchphrase. Not content to merely demonstrate there for the night, the band descended from their high-water mark to march into Baker-Berry Library.
“F*** you, you filthy white f***s!” “F*** you and your comfort!” “F*** you, you racist s***!”
These shouted epithets were the first indication that many students had of the coming storm. The sign-wielding, obscenity-shouting protesters proceeded through the usually quiet backwaters of the library. They surged first through first-floor Berry, then up the stairs to the normally undisturbed floors of the building, before coming back down to the ground floor of Novack.
Throngs of protesters converged around fellow students who had not joined in their long march. They confronted students who bore “symbols of oppression”: “gangster hats” and Beats-brand headphones. The flood of demonstrators self-consciously overstepped every boundary, opening the doors of study spaces with students reviewing for exams. Those who tried to close their doors were harassed further. One student abandoned the study room and ran out of the library. The protesters followed her out of the library, shouting obscenities the whole way.
Students who refused to listen to or join their outbursts were shouted down. “Stand the f*** up!” “You filthy racist white piece of s***!” Men and women alike were pushed and shoved by the group. “If we can’t have it, shut it down!” they cried. Another woman was pinned to a wall by protesters who unleashed their insults, shouting “filthy white b****!” in her face.
In the immediate aftermath of the demonstration, social media was abuzz with comments condemning the protesters for their tactics. Many students who had experienced the protests took advantage of YikYak’s anonymity to air their grievances. Some students reached out to The Dartmouth Review to provide additional details.
An anonymous ‘19 explained that while working on a group project in a private study room, his UGA came in and expressed his virulent disappointment that the he was not joining in the protest. The UGA then demanded that he and the other members of his group project to leave the room and join in.
Another ‘19 recalled clapping after a protester said, “let’s give a round of applause for the beautiful people of color who were here for this protest.” The protester then turned on her saying, “for all of you that are sitting down and applauding right now, ‘we don’t care about you’.”
The protest certainly represented a new peak for the passions and tactics that define the current moment in student activism at Dartmouth. But this chapter will go on, with more outbursts that will shake the campus and prompt us to think through what this all means. As Dartmouth students prepare to make sense of race relations at the College, as well as form our perspective on social justice that we’ll carry long after commencement, we should hold the November 12 protest as a reminder that reflexive sympathy doesn’t always cut it. Open eyes and attuned minds will let us spot the difference between legitimate efforts to spark racial progress, and outbursts of the aimless antipathy that dozens of our peers of all races were subjected to.