Joint Statement to the Brown Daily Herald

For further context, please see the bluestockings editors statement.

To the Editorial Board of the Brown Daily Herald,

We, as leaders of various Black student organizations, write this letter out of concern for and disgust of the decisions made by the Brown Daily Herald to publish two consecutively racist articles by the same author, entitled “The white privilege of cows” and “Columbian Exchange Day,” released by the campus publication on October 5th and October 6th, 2015, respectively.

These two articles are merely the most recent installments in a series of bigoted articles. The author in question wrote an opinion piece published in the BDH on September 15th, 2015, titled “Brown’s oppressed minority,” highlighting the lack of attention to conversations related to disability at Brown. However, the article also named critical discussions on other aspects of identity as “hypocritical”  and facilitated by “ideological imperialists.” These articles have offended and alienated large segments of the campus population—especially since the student utilized your publication to bring attention to discourses on one aspect of identity while simultaneously erasing and discrediting other aspects of identity held by members of the student body that deserve to be critically engaged with as well.

As leaders of organizations that seek to foster a healthy, sustainable and hate-free campus climate for Black students, as well as for all students of color, we take particular offense. Though it would appear to go without saying that both of these articles—and a number of previously published BDH articles—are flagrantly racist, this fact appears to have been unacknowledged officially and explicitly by the BDH Editorial Board for quite some time.

The Editorial Board, if it can claim integrity in any sense of the word, has the utmost obligation to ensure that the pieces it publishes are both factually accurate and not racist, classist, cissexist, heterosexist, sexist, or ableist. Dismissing and justifying the blatantly prejudiced nature of these articles through an “internal error” excuse is inadequate and intolerable. We demand that 1) the BDH admit the role it has played in consistently giving a platform to racist ideologies; 2) publicly apologize in print and online for their egregious mistake and the resulting harm on members of our community; and 3) give the Brown community a concrete and transparent plan of action to ensure that:

     A) the BDH will intentionally seek to create a more diverse Board and membership;

     B) the BDH will have more rigorous fact-checking standards for columns, with the disclaimer that expressly offensive postings can and will be rejected;

     C) the paper will abstain from pulling released stories in the future, as taking such action undermines the integrity of the paper and shows an attempt to distance itself from content that it previously deemed acceptable for subsequent approval of publication by the Editorial Board; and that

     D) this plan of action be subject to the scrutiny and suggested revisions/additions of the general student body after it is brought to targeted-focus groups consisting of members from student groups of color.

It is disturbing that the Editorial Board was either unaware of these issues or removed from the editing process to such an extent that articles like these could be published without 1) the offensive and racist ideologies giving the Editors pause; and 2) the veracity of the information being verified. A fraction of this issue stems from the lack of diversity in the paper’s staff. We are willing to work with the paper to increase its diversity. However, the larger and more important issue at hand is that the BDH editorial process published these articles, thereby giving these racist ideologies reinscribed, verified power and platform, harming Native and Indigenous students at Brown and other undergraduates who came in contact with their content.

As Black students, we are deeply offended and personally harmed by “The White Privilege of Cows” which advocated for eugenics. This article was later deleted without a statement of apology by the BDH as the organization attempted to distance itself from it rather than take ownership of its hateful and poisonous content. Trying to erase the evidence of one’s wrongdoings only highlights the BDH’s desire not to be held accountable for or associated with its actions.

We particularly want to underscore the impact that the most recent article, “Columbian Exchange Day,” has had on the Native and Indigenous community at Brown. This is especially important considering that this University itself is a product of the American settler-colonial project and the violent genocide of Native people, namely the Wampanoag and Narragansett Nations upon whose land Brown University currently stands. In giving the approval to publish this article on the “Columbian Exchange,” the Editorial Board has willingly participated in this violent history of genocide and displacement of Native people and the continuous silencing and erasure of Native students on Brown’s campus.

We hold the writer, M. Dzhali Maier, and the Editorial Board accountable for the pieces that it publishes, and urge Brown University and President Christina Paxson to do the same. The BDH should make it a priority to ensure that events such as these do not occur again. For one of these articles to be released is unacceptable; for both of these to have ever seen the light, on consecutive days, approved by the Editorial Board, unapologetically, is REPREHENSIBLE.

As the oldest and most prominent publication on this campus, we hold the BDH accountable as an organization for their practices and how they approach controversial issues. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, whether or not students disagree; however, as an organization with privilege, power, and a platform, the BDH is, and will be, held to a higher standard than any one individual.

We rebuke the BDH, its Editorial Board, and M. Dzhali Maier for propagating and proliferating racist opinions and erasure, delegitimizing the emotions and trauma of oppressed people, and for issuing a subpar statement, that “The Herald regrets the publication of the column,” does not adequately acknowledge and apologize for the adverse effects this has had on the undergraduate community.

The impact of this article cannot be retracted. We urge BDH’s Editors to realize how this publication has defaced Native Americans at Brown’s event and shifted the discourse surrounding Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The BDH must ensure that egregious and avoidable “mistakes” such as these do not occur again. It is only in doing this that the BDH can hope to regain the trust of its readers and the undergraduate community who it has notably harmed over the last two days.

The Brown Daily Herald is at fault. The entire organization should reflect on its offenses and reform its editorial processes which allow such “internal errors” to take place. We refuse to be silent. We deserve and demand better from this organization. We hold the Brown Daily Herald accountable.

United, we stand in Solidarity with Native Americans at Brown,

The NAACP Executive Board

Armani Madison ‘16, Sarah Jackson ‘16, Dakotah Rice ‘16

 

On behalf of The Black Student Union (BSU),

Olajumoke Akinsulire ‘16 & Candice Ellis ‘16, President & Vice President

 

On behalf of The Next Thing (TNT), & Other Brothers

Jarred Turner ‘16, President & President

 

On Behalf of Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA),

Devika Seeraj ‘16, President

 

On Behalf of The League of United Black Women,

Taylor Michael ‘17 & Asha Owens ‘16, Co-Presidents  

 

On Behalf of The Brotherhood,

Isaiah Edwards ‘17, Co-President

 

On Behalf of OBSIDIAN Magazine,

Taylor Michael ‘17 and Brianna Cox ‘18, Co-Editors-in-Chief

 

On Behalf of the Brown Organization of Multiracial/Biracial Students (BOMBS),

Edward Brown ’17 and Amani Hayes-Messinger ’18, Co-Presidents

 

On Behalf of Harambee House,

Kendal Cockrel ‘17 and Isaiah Edwards ‘17, House Heads

 

On Behalf of the African Student Association (AfriSA)

Chibuikem Nwizu ‘17, President

 

On Behalf of the Women of Color Collective

Cherise Morris ’16 and Naomi Varnis ’16, coordinators

 

On Behalf of Dominican Students @ Brown (DS@B)

Jasmine Perez ‘16, Co-President

 

On Behalf of Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice Student Advisory Board,

Alexis Berry ‘17 and Jacinta Lomba ‘17, Coordinators

 

On Behalf of the Black Pre-Law Association,

Malikah Williams ‘16, President

 

Signing as Individuals:

Akpiroro (Roro) Oshobe ‘19

Alexandra Chukwumah ’19

Ameera Kuforiji ‘19

Auriana Woods ‘19

Blessed Sheriff ‘19

Chinenye Uduji ‘19

Devin Howard ‘19

Dominique Kercy ‘19

Ebube Chuba ‘19

Jayleen Paula ‘19

Kaila Johnson ‘19

Kayla Cain, ‘19

Kaylan Williams ‘19

Khalif Andre ‘19

Kidest Assefa-McNeil ‘19

Lidwina Bell ‘19

Malana Krongelb ’19

Matlaleng Babatunde ‘19

Nana Adu ‘19

noah ezer ‘19 (lack of capitalization is intentional)

Olivia Cummings ’19

Salina Tesfay ‘19

Thoralf Island ‘19

Uchechukwu Onwunaka ‘19

 

Ade Osinubi ’18

Carissa Haynes ‘18

Chelse-Amoy Steele, ’18

Isabella Kres-Nash ‘18

Jonathan Jaramillo ‘18

Keyanna Thompson-Atticot ‘18

Langston Glaude ‘18

Odemi Pessu ‘18

Nicole Ubinas ‘18

Skenda Jean-Charles ‘18

William E. Martin ‘18

Zainab Soetan ‘18

 

Adwa Habtu ‘17

Alex Karim ‘17

Ashley Washington ‘17

Chinedu Irofuala,’ 17

Citlali Perez ‘17

Frederick Williams ‘17

Genesis Medina ‘17

JoVaun Holmes ’17

Kristin Ramcharan ‘17

Myacah Sampson ‘17

Olivia Veira ‘17

Renata Mauriz ’17

Shannon Frampton ‘17

Victor Cox ‘17

 

Alexandra Sepolen ‘16

Anisha Lewis ‘16

Bianca Audrey Duah ‘16

Camera Ford ‘16

Carlos Lopez ‘16

Chimezie Udozorh ‘16

Ebony McCaskill ‘16

Haley Moss ‘16

Hannah Anokye ‘16

Jamelle Watson-Daniels ‘16

Jason Addy ‘16

Joshua Jackson ’16

Olugbenga A. Joseph ‘16

Kristina Lee ‘16

Josie Valcin ‘16

Justice Gaines ‘16

Karen Normil ‘16

Malikah Williams ‘16

Nancy Holt ‘16

Nathan Money ‘16

Paige Morris ‘16

Raisa Cramer ‘16

Sienna Bates ‘16

Stanley Stewart ‘16

Tiara Mack ‘16

Yacine Sow ‘16

 

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