Reader Cate sent me a link that’s very useful if you are following the protests that are spreading all over the U.S. It’s a big and absorbing collection of Atlantic articles, posts, and readers’ notes appearing under the title, “Debating the campus protests at Yale, Mizzou, and elsewhere.”
The behavior of demonstrators at Dartmouth (first bit in the collection), and the cowardice of the college administration, is particularly disturbing, regardless of the justice of their cause. The article in The Dartmouth (the college paper) has 494 comments, an astounding number for a student newspaper.
And a sympathetic group has posted, at another side, a comprehensive list of “demands” made by protestors at 53 colleges.
At the same time, I remember the lunch-counter sit-ins in the Sixties, in which young black people, many of them college students, performed equally in-your-face acts as a way to highlight racial injustice. Why do I admire their courage so much (many were beaten and hauled to jail) and yet feel queasy about the current campus protests by minority students? I’m not quite sure, except that the more recent protests seem to be more about personal offense, psychological “safety”, and the suppression of “offensive” speech than the greater cause of racial discrimination. They seem too personal, too vindictive towards those who are actually on their side. At the same time, I am not able to put myself into the shoes of a minority student on an elite and largely white campus.
Nobody can claim that the U.S. is free of racism, and I suspect that at least some of those outraged by the Dartmouth demonstrators and their calls to “fuck your white privilege!”, and “fuck you, you filthy white fuckers!”, are not deeply concerned by racial injustice in the other direction. I, for one, am certainly thinking hard about my own reactions. But I still conclude that, were Martin Luther King Jr. alive today, he wouldn’t approve of these ways to address injustice.