Okay, here's the thing. Here's the thing about Ray Kelly's speech at Brown.
I don't want to call out specific people here. I acknowledge that conversation around this issue has been tense, loaded, and heated. I also acknowledge that a variety of voices have allied themselves in the fight against Kelly's speech, for which I am grateful.
But I must also acknowledge the voices who wish to drown out the voices of oppressed communities. I need to process all the folks on my Facebook feed talking about how Brown students should not have shouted down and cancelled Kelly's inevitably offensive, appalling lecture in List Auditorium today.
I cannot see one more status pleading that we ask him hard questions; that we engage in discussion with one of the most lauded racists of our time; that we be more "open-minded" in pursuit of a campus community that embodies Brown's values (whatever those are). It makes me want to BREAK THINGS. Here is why.
Certain populations in this country are told that what they say deserves to be heard. Certain demographics are lauded for having strong opinions, for pushing the envelope, for speaking loudly and standing up for what they believe in.
Do you know who these people are? Guess. GUESS. (Hint: Not women. Not POC. Not LGBTQA. Also, they look like a lot of the folks perpetuating anti-protest rhetoric on my newsfeed.)
Now, please understand that I certainly recognize that my white privilege, my Ivy League education, and my strong personality empower me to speak and be heard in many situations. I am entitled to a platform in many communities, increasingly even on this blog and especially as I try to raise awareness of my writing and work. I believe that I deserve to be listened to, and that makes me entitled. I constantly examine this position, hoping to continually use this entitlement in solidarity with folks less privileged than myself. (And if you have constructive things to say about how this essay is not pursuant to that goal, please engage with me!)
And I was also taught my whole life that what I have to say is less important than what white men have to say. I was taught this by the media, by gender expectations, by visions of leadership that did not represent me or my female peers. I was taught: glass ceiling. I was taught: stay quiet. I was taught: make me a sandwich.
From what I have gathered and learned from my incredible friends and peers organizing an enormous effort to shut down Kelly's lecture, my experience is not unique. Many of us in marginalized or oppressed communities feel that our voices are not valued. Some have, in recent years, been taught this in not-so-subtle fashion by the New York Police Department. Violence and oppression from the police is status quo in New York City today. I have felt this impact to an extent myself, having been exposed to sexism and verbal harassment from the very people allegedly keeping me safe. This state of fear is a direct result of Ray Kelly's "proactive policing," including stop-and-frisk.
It has taken me years to develop a sense of my voice, and to find comfort in speaking my mind. I find empowerment in feminist, activist, and anti-racist communities who echo and amplify messages that guide my decision-making every day. I work and aspire to one day claim those descriptors myself.
But despite the growth and proactivity of progressive communities, we are not living in an equal society. We are not living in a world where anti-racism is "the visible opinion," as some horrible person wrote on Brown University Compliments. We live in a world where oppressed communities ARE OPPRESSED. THAT MEANS THEY ARE NOT LISTENED TO. And an auditorium at Brown University, though we so desperately wish to believe ourselves special and unique, is not absent the context of our not-at-all-colorblind society.
I am not at all surprised that many folks opposed to Kelly's policies didn't even entertain asking him questions. Why? Because I was never taught that if I simply ask a well-thought-out question, someone in a position of power will listen to me. Because collective action, chanting, and protest is many communities' only hope of being heard in a society that is simply unwilling to acknowledge their voices.
I don't understand the logic that if those opposed to Kelly would just ask him questions, somehow some greater truth would be told. That is simply a privileged understanding of how politics and debate operates in our country. The only truth is the truth of human experience. And human experience in New York City, under the military control of the NYPD, is in desperate need of a new "visible opinion." Human experience has showed us that stop-and-frisk is destroying communities and lives. Asking communities affected by or opposed to that policy to stay silent IS OPPRESSION.
I so wish we lived in a society where I could expect that, given a platform and time for Q&A, Ray Kelly could engage in conversation with students positioned against his racist policies. Unfortunately, as a New Yorker who is far too aware of the direct consequences of white male privilege, I strongly disagree that such a space could have ever been created today.
In sum, thanks to my Brown friends for fucking shit up.
10/29/2013 08:56:59 am
Thank you for this
10/29/2013 09:37:21 am
It is so typical of an immature entitled brown student to write/argue in this form.
10/29/2013 09:58:16 am
10/29/2013 09:45:47 am
Thank you for this thoughtful post, Leah! Well said.
10/29/2013 09:50:22 am
"I don't understand the logic that if those opposed to Kelly would just ask him questions, somehow some greater truth would be told. That is simply a privileged understanding of how politics and debate operates in our country."
10/29/2013 09:55:04 am
Hello! I really appreciate your feedback and take it to heart. I certainly do not mean to suggest or state that POC are necessarily or entirely supportive of today's protest. I am doing my very best, as we all are, to find my place in this conversation and in doing so, to acknowledge and challenge my privilege to participate in the conversation at all. As I said in my essay, I am very receptive to constructive critique and your comment certainly falls in that category. Thank you for taking the time to read and to respond.
10/29/2013 01:10:09 pm
If you do not give the man time to speak or the decency to do that, everything you say to him will be disregarded and fall on deaf ears. What people said today has already been said to him time and time again. You hijacked my learning opportunity and my chance for discourse with this man. As a policy entrepreneur, wouldn't you want me to have that conversation? To take his accounts into consideration when making city and state policy? I think you would. These are the repercussions of your actions.
10/29/2013 10:00:23 am
So let me get this straight: because minorities are given less of a voice in our society, they (and their supporters) have the right to not only silence other voices, but call those who wish to hear different points of view "horrible people"? The fact is, anti-racism *is* the visible opinion inside the Brown Bubble, and when controversial lectures are shut down the community loses a chance for valuable discourse.
10/29/2013 11:35:15 am
I completely agree with your second paragraph. Whether we did so for well-justified reasons or not, we hurt our own cause here today. And for that I'm embarrassed.
10/29/2013 02:14:30 pm
I completely agree.
10/29/2013 02:46:26 pm
You also have to think of the broader context. What happened to Ray Kelly was covered nationally. Brown's institutional power (Ivy League, etc.) was symbolically leveraged to publicly reject what Ray Kelly stands for. I think the significance of this far outweighs the value of discourse that could have happened, most of which can probably be found online anyway
10/29/2013 02:57:00 pm
So, in essence, what you are saying is that a group of approximately 100 protesters can exploit their (Ivy League) university's good reputation to advance their private social justice campaign? Does it not bother you that a particularly vocal group of less than 5% of the student body can "represent" the college on a national level?
10/29/2013 03:23:34 pm
I think you might be missing the point of "discourse" -- it's not to recreate that which can already be found on the internet, but to examine and reexamine all sides of an issue until the participants understand the less black-and-white aspects. We are intelligent students. We have a responsibility to not just read the well-researched opinions of others, but to think and form our own independent opinions. That is what was taken away -- not just the opportunity to hear Ray Kelley's story, but the opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation.
10/29/2013 03:51:46 pm
Perhaps it is *you* who should be thinking in a broader context. Why on earth would you want to embarrass a guest speaker? Aside from disgracing Brown, Kelly might just choose to expand his Stop and Frisk attitude because of it.
10/29/2013 10:10:23 am
10/29/2013 11:56:22 am
I'm shocked at the hubris of those who think shutting down a speaker is laudable. I am a Brown grad who lives in NYC. Do you who "hate" Kelly know that "stop and frisk" was requested by those who live in the buildings near where it was done? Do you acknowledge that perhaps, let's say the older and possibly African American residents of neighborhoods invite police to protect them from drug dealers and kids with guns? Who is prosecuted when a stop and frisk turns up guns and drugs? The innocent? I've met Kelly and he's a decent guy who listens to others. Get real, young Brown kids....investigate before you cast the first stone.
10/29/2013 12:36:07 pm
"I've met Kelly and he's a decent guy"?? and you think that the majority of Black and Brown folks in NYC are asking for stop and frisk? The relationship between police and communities of color is a war zone, and this clearly shows which side you are on.
10/29/2013 01:13:31 pm
Did Ray Kelly start stop-and-frisk? No
10/29/2013 01:15:33 pm
^^ Lisa, EXACTLY.
10/29/2013 01:40:39 pm
Hi Julian, thanks for imposing your black-and-white thinking on this issue instead of acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, the issue is deserving of a little critical thinking, you anti-intellectualist twit.
10/29/2013 10:16:06 am
Here's the thing, Brown is an intellectual institution first and foremost. Its not a social justice campaign as much as you may wish. Your arguments are advocating intellectual dishonesty and anti-intellectualism (despite the fact you greatly benefitted from Brown and your other schooling, I'm sure, because they were intellectual institutions).
10/29/2013 01:12:20 pm
Well said! There is a time and a place. The University is not the place today. These protesters and hecklers negatively impacted everyone that was there to have a productive, intellectual conversation. They own an apology to Noah Krieger's parents, who were in attendance.
10/29/2013 10:22:23 am
"In sum, thanks to my Brown friends for fucking shit up."
10/29/2013 01:49:29 pm
I totally agree. Today's events were a black mark for the Brown community and it's appalling that even for a day, our great university was closed for discussion. Denial of speech is never a worthy tactic to pursue.
10/29/2013 11:22:54 am
I am afraid that we are bordering on a type of politically correctness that is going to spill into total silence. I would not listen to Ray Kelly speak for any other reason than to try to understand, to have a glimpse into the mind of someone who has implemented a very obviously hurtful and detrimental policy. Once we understand people like this and their motives, we can stop others like them from gaining positions of power where they will target and hurt different groups.
10/29/2013 12:35:26 pm
10/29/2013 12:35:49 pm
10/29/2013 12:39:37 pm
Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.
10/29/2013 12:43:14 pm
Thanks for posting this, and this debate is just ridiculous. It's the same boring and reused arguments that get used any time people are successful in standing up to oppressors. See the thing is, nothing changes if people wait till the end and wait to ask a couple pointed questions, no one would even be talking about this, it's just status quo. At least now there's a visible show of a powerful counter-narrative that can change at least one small thing. And so of course all the reactionaries and apologists come out the word work wringing their hands and crying about "civil dialogue". Thank you for exposing your true colors, it's a lot better this way than when you hide behind some liberal mask.
10/29/2013 02:27:14 pm
Are you seriously insinuating that people who actually want to engage in dialogue to discredit Kelly (rather than staging a disrespectful protest that goes against Brown's mission as a place of learning and discussion) are being racist?
10/29/2013 02:39:35 pm
Well put. It seems that alienating the moderates is now a popular tactic for Brown's more idealistic children (along with dehumanization, you're-either-with-us-or-against-us mentalities and incredibly ironic "privilege-shaming"). It reminds me of religious zealotry.
10/29/2013 02:29:33 pm
Boring and reused? Have you looked at the buzzwords in your own comment? Oppressors, status quo, counter-narrative, reactionaries, apologists... Pardon me, but you've strangled your own jargon to death. Please use your expensive BA in MCM to invent new words that you can use to paint your anti-intellectual beliefs with a thin veneer of sophistication.
10/29/2013 12:54:07 pm
10/29/2013 12:55:37 pm
WILL NO ONE ADDRESS THE FACTS?!?
10/29/2013 01:17:21 pm
10/29/2013 02:03:46 pm
Okay at this point I cannot tell if you are trolling... but I guess I'll bite, because it's so late, and your all caps are so damn alluring:
QUASI TROLL... SUCCESS :)
10/29/2013 03:00:10 pm
... but also I expect Brown students to achieve higher order thinking. Half the kids watch the daily show, take a feminism class, and then either feel really, really upset or feel obligated to act really, really upset. Maybe they could look at what is actually happening and draw some of their own conclusions....
10/29/2013 01:22:35 pm
The goal is not for Kelly to be changed by the questions asked but rather the minds of the audience. The power of all of us is what will make a difference in this world. Engage more people by helping them understand the struggles and results of Kelly's policies. Then together we can make a real difference in the world.
10/29/2013 01:24:05 pm
10/29/2013 01:51:08 pm
Leah, really? Did you really delete a comment criticizing your position? How ironic.
10/29/2013 02:32:16 pm
LET IT BE NOTED that at this time I have not deleted any comments from this post, or edited the post at all.
YOU HAVE TO BE A HUMANITIES MAJOR BECAUSE ITS LIKE YOU DON'T EVEN SEE THE NUMBERS
10/29/2013 01:54:29 pm
10/29/2013 02:22:16 pm
Let me first say, how deeply disappointed I am with much of the Brown community. It is with a heavy heart that I comment on this post. I cannot believe that anyone would be opposed to R Kelly!
10/29/2013 02:44:29 pm
Thank you Brown students for actually engaging with the politics on your community instead of just ignorantly thinking oppression is a fun intellectual hobby, like most people in the comments above seem to think.
10/29/2013 02:57:49 pm
Please refer to my previous comment..
10/29/2013 03:09:16 pm
Dissidence = ignorance, you say? Congratulations, you've successfully subscribed to the ideological fascism of the Brown Idealists.
10/29/2013 03:40:25 pm
This protest raises an important issue, and Leah, your post and the conversations it's already provoking on Brown alum's' facebooks really have gotten me and a lot of us thinking and have gotten me, at least, reconsidering.
10/29/2013 03:43:04 pm
Why is it always the shittiest, half-baked, and poorly thought out articles that garner the most attention? I felt like I was reading The Onion here
10/29/2013 03:54:27 pm
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