For further context, please see the bluestockings editors statement.
We, a collective of multiracial and biracial students, write this statement to address the publication of a series of articles by the Brown Daily Herald, as well the publication of “An open letter to students on power, learning and responsibility” written by President Christina Paxson, Richard Locke, a provost, and Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy. We write out of deep concern for the decisions made by the Brown Daily Herald to publish the racist opinion articles “The White Privilege of Cows,” and “Columbian Exchange Day” on October 5th, and October 6th, 2015, respectively, and the administration’s choice to address the publishing of these articles with an open letter that minimizes the pain of Native and Indigenous students.
The Herald’s staff privileges writers who continue in the legacy of white supremacy, further marginalizing students already systemically oppressed by the University. In an effort to recenter and stand in solidarity with Native and Indigenous students, we call attention to The Herald’s errors and their history of racism.
Additionally, we call attention to President Paxson, Provost Locke and Executive Vice President Carey’s response, which assumes an inevitability of racism on campus and ultimately prioritizes reactive learning experiences over the safety of Native and Indigenous students. Once again asking for “listening, learning and discussion,” the University’s administrators places the onus on marginalized students to serve as educators and evidence of structural violence on this campus and beyond.
We also call multiracial and biracial community members to interrogate the ways in which we are complicit in the erasure of Native and Indigenous people. Moreover, multiracial, biracial and Indigenous identities are not separate—there are multi- and biracial people who hold Indigenous identity. We, as a community that experiences multiple histories of racism and colonization while often being heralded as a signal of the end of racism, must evaluate, address, and decolonize our own actions.
Finally, we aim to hold both the The Herald’s staff and the University accountable for the violences they perpetuate against Native and Indigenous peoples, and broader communities of color at and around the University since its inception.
Statements from Native Americans at Brown, Black leaders, organizations and students, a collective of AAPI students and a collective of Latinx and Latin-American students have chronicled the publishing of “The White Privilege of Cows” and “Columbian Exchange Day,” the Herald’s response with its Editor’s Note, and the broader history and implications of the Herald serving as a platform for the same legacy of institutional violence on which Brown University was founded.
We echo these students’ disappointment and condemnation of the Herald. An apology does not rectify the Herald’s violent actions against Native and Indigenous students. The negligence, lack of accountability, and irresponsibility exhibited by the Herald is not acceptable of any publication and has real consequences for the safety of students of color on this campus. The Herald is obligated to amplify the voices of marginalized students, and to ensure it does not provide a platform for ableist, classist, sexist, cissexist, heterosexist, imperialist, and racist content.
The “Joint Statement to the Brown Daily Herald,” written and signed by the leaders of various Black student organizations and individual Black students, outlines the wrongdoings of The Herald and issues demands for structural changes within The Herald. We support the demands listed within the statement and share the sentiments expressed within it. In particular, we wish to highlight this section:
“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.”
—Black Organizations, Leaders, and Students at Brown University
In addition, we support the statements and demands towards The Herald and the University that have been issued by Native and Indigenous students in response to these grievances as well as those made by Asian/Asian-American and Pacific Islander and Latinx and Latin-American students.
President Paxson’s Letter
On October 9th, 2015, President Christina Paxson, Richard Locke and Russell Carey, provost and executive vice president for planning and policy, respectively, published a column in the Brown Daily Herald entitled “An open letter to students on power, learning and responsibility.” The letter came in response to the blatantly racist articles published by the Brown Daily Herald and the outcry from students of color, namely Native and Indigenous students, and those acting in solidarity, who refused to remain silent as the largest campus publication facilitated an attempt to strip them of their humanity and inherent right to exist.
Contrary to what the headline suggests, President Paxson and her co-writers did not spend ample time considering the violent power exercised by an accredited publication that upholds white supremacist ideals. They also did not express the ways in which they, as administrators of Brown University, expect to see the Brown Daily Herald take responsibility or plan to complete a course of action on behalf of the university.
Instead, the letter posits “listening, learning and discussion,” as adequate substitutes for the demands being made by Native and Indigenous students in the wake of another instance of continued erasure. The emphasis on learning presumes that students of color can be used as tools for the benefit of institutions that have never supported us, a pattern of burdening students of color that has not been uncommon following the series of racist events marking Brown’s history that are mentioned in the letter.
To address the Herald’s publication of these racist articles as simply “mistakes,” Paxson, Locke and Carey minimize the “significant power” that the Herald possesses to prioritize the learning opportunities for those on its staff. Their discussion of the Herald’s actions following the publication of these articles assumes claiming an “internal error” to be equivalent to taking explicit accountability for the individual and institutional processes that led to their dissemination of racist content. Recognizing the character of the Herald’s staff on the basis of their October 7th Editor’s Note—without recognizing the draining work done by students of color to name and challenge the Herald’s racist, dehumanizing articles—shields the BDH from having to take the kind of clear, active responsibility for its mistakes that would create actual change and truly meaningful reparations. It effectively calls for the closing of pointed critiques of BDH and in doing so, actively privileges a platform that has been a voice for white supremacy by trying to downplay criticism from students of color. By committing to community-wide learning and listening, it offers the same prescription the University gives every time marginalized students are erased and degraded on this campus, which would suggest little to no learning has happened.
The learning opportunities President Paxson suggests should never come at the expense of students of color, their livelihood, their mental wellbeing, and their own education. As Brown students, the editors of the BDH have access to myriad classes, teach-ins, workshops and other resources to educate themselves about issues of race, gender, and imperialism (in addition to class, ability and sexuality). These students should be held to higher standards that reflect as much. Given the scale of the BDH as a student organization and the supposed rigor of their editorial process, they should be held accountable for their conscious decisions to report flagrantly racist, anti-Native ideologies. To expect the students of color on this campus to illuminate these issues to students and student organizations which uphold white supremacist ideology, while concurrently being forced to defend their humanity, is exploitative and reproduces these very systems of oppression.
Additionally, we find the choice to focus on “learning opportunities” and the portrayal of the “hurt” caused by recent events as simply “perspective” to be unacceptably dismissive of the true impact of racist hate speech and recurring erasure. We challenge the writers’ refusal to center the experience of Native and Indigenous students as they heal from and organize protest of the university operated structures which placed a collective trauma upon these students.
As a community comprised by a number of histories that are both distinct and intersecting, and rooted in varying sites of power and agency, we as multiracial and biracial students can be complicit in settler colonialism, particularly in the settler-colonial project that is the University. The Asian/Asian-American and Pacific Islander statement importantly asserted:
“As people of color, we want to make it explicitly clear that we too can be invested in white supremacy, especially when it provides us with privileges at the expense of other people of color.”
–A Collective of AAPI students
We, as multiracial and biracial people, experience race and racism, as well as colonization and imperialism in a number of ways. We can simultaneously hold multiple racial identities. Some of us hold a particular adjacency to whiteness that can allow us to invest in white supremacy in ways that are damaging to other people of color.
Additionally, there is a trend in mainstream narratives that paints racial hybridity and the increasing number of multi- and biracial individuals as a signal to the end of race and racism. In light of this, it is vital for multiracial and biracial people to acknowledge and challenge the persistence of racial violence. We must be critical, thoughtful and compassionate in this work and as we build coalitions across communities of color. At this moment, we also must actively center the humanity, safety, and work of Native and Indigenous students as the recent articles and letters most specifically enact anti-Indigenous violence.
A Call for Solidarity
It is not enough to discuss. It is not enough to write letters or sign statements. We must act. In responding to Native Americans at Brown and Native American Heritage Series’ call for “other POCs on campus to demonstrate our solidarity of experiencing various oppressions that are a result from colonization in the Americas,” we call on multiracial and biracial students to participate in the upcoming demonstrations and to continue working in solidarity with Native and Indigenous students.
The protest on Monday, October 12th, is a demonstration to “petition the University to change the name of Fall Weekend to Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” an action we wholeheartedly support.
We condemn The Herald for its continued history of providing an institutional platform for racist and exclusionary hate speech. We hold The Herald accountable for its erasure and neglect of Native and Indigenous people through the publication of these opinions columns. As the oldest publication of Brown University, The Herald is privileged as one of the most visible student newspapers to the general public, and their articles and columns carry an immense amount of power. It is time for all of us to look at our roles in allowing content like this to be legitimized through campus journalism, and more broadly at our roles in erasing the stories of Native and Indigenous students at the University and peoples in Providence and beyond.
We also express deep disappointment in the open letter from President Paxson, Provost Locke and Executive Vice President Carey. No longer should the University look to its students of color to serve as educators and their pain as learning opportunities. Too often are the people of color on this campus are expected to sacrifice their time and well-being to improve an institution that routinely dehumanizes them and too rarely protects them.
In solidarity with Native and Indigenous students and fellow students of color at Brown,
On behalf of Brown’s Organization of Multiracial and Biracial Students (B.O.M.B.S.),
Amani Hayes-Messinger ‘18 & Edward Brown ’17, Co-Presidents
On behalf of the Multiracial Heritage Series
Sam Jones ‘18, Co-Coordinator
On behalf of the Woman of Color Collective,
Naomi Varnis ’16, co-coordinator
On behalf of The Next Thing (TNT) & Other Brothers,
Jarred Turner ‘16, President & President
Signing as individuals,
Alina Taveras Shelley ’19
Aminata Coulibaly ‘19
Emily Blatt ‘19
Aya Bisbee ‘19
Chantal Toupin ‘19
Courtney Hoggard-Savage ‘19
Emilia Halvorsen ‘19
Hannah Montoya ’19
Hugo Hansen ‘19
Janine Goetzen ‘19
Jorge David Gutierrez Sanabria ‘19
Katherine Chavez ‘19
Maggie Matsui ’19
Malana Krongelb ’19
Meghan Mozea ‘19
Manuel Ávalos ‘19
noah ezer ‘19
Sabrina Whitfill ‘19
Sebastian Niculescu ’19
Vanessa Garcia ‘19
Amalia Perez ‘18
Amani Hayes-Messinger ‘18
Angelica Johnsen ‘18
Anne Bocage ‘18
Cora Ordway ‘18
Dominique Moore ‘18
Emily Diaz ‘18
Isabella Kres-Nash ’18
Joanna Simwinga ’18
Madeline Martin ‘18
Naomi Chasek-Macfoy ’18
Natalie Chapkis ’18
Paloma Orozco Scott ‘18
Patricia Paulino ’18
Paxon Chang ‘18
Sam Jones ‘18
Casey Poore ‘17
Chinedu Irofuala ‘17
Christina Tapiero ’17
Claire Detrick-Jules ‘17
Emma Willis ‘17
Izzy Greene ‘17
Joy Yamaguchi ‘17
Lehidy Frias ‘17
Monica Chin ‘17
Sage Fanucchi-Funes ’17
Samuel Lin-Sommer ’17
Stefanie Lyn Kaufman ‘17
Yasmine Hassan ’17
Camera Ford ’16
Crystal Kim ‘16
Donovan Dennis ‘16
Héctor Peralta ’16
Jasmine McAdams ‘16
Joshua Chavez ‘16
Kristina Lee ‘16
Marion Wellington ’16
Morayo Akande ‘16
Natalie Cutler ’16
Rana Suliman ’16
Samantha Rose ’16
Sarah Dillard ‘16
Victoria Kidd ’16
Walter Kikuchi ‘16
Chanelle Adams ‘15.5
Sabine Williams ‘15.5
Lucas Johnson ’15 MAT ’16
Elisa Glubok Gonzalez ’14 MD ’19