SASS TAKING ACTION AGAINST ANTI-BLACK CAMPUS JOURNALISM
As of October 4, 2017, [the Daily Gazette] has received its last article, quote, demonstration of support, or acknowledgement from the Swarthmore African-American Student Society.
SASS’ legacy of virtue, justice, truth, and integrity does not allow us to continue to affiliate ourselves with a publication such as yours. In the following letter, we will outline the most pertinent faults of the Daily Gazette’s recent article titled “Kaepernick’s Well-Intentioned but Ineffectual Protest”, condemn your Editor’s disrespectful, and unapologetic response, and hold the Gazette accountable for its negligent response as a publication. We will also outline efforts that SASS has executed to reconcile with the aforementioned parties, and their passiveness or neglect to comply with our reasonable requests.
Upon reading the article, we, the SASS Executive Board, were first concerned about the members of the Black community. The article was released the morning after a protest held at a volleyball game, led by two SASS members. Our President was not able to attend due to a commitment in D.C., and did not have a cell phone. The entire bus ride home, she was terrified knowing that the community could have possibly faced a hostile crowd. When things like this happen, you never know how serious things can get. Many members had never protested before, and she felt their fear of uncertainty. While she was relieved to hear that the protest was readily accepted, and that members were okay and felt empowered, all of this changed when she read the article the next morning. When the Black athletes approached the SASS community for support, we knew that their efforts would be diminished. We knew that people who did not understand the struggle would try to undermine them. We knew that these people would have no sense of the reality that Black people face, and that they would impose an uninformed and useless critique on us, aiding in our silencing and oppression. We know this because we know history. We did not know that we would have to read it in our school newspaper; similarly, we did not know the blow would come from another person of color.
We were first concerned for the Black community; our attention then shifted to the author. Our President immediately released a statement on Facebook reminding Black students, “[They] are productive through [their] mere presence at this institution,” and we reached out to the author and he agreed to meet at Essie’s that evening with our President. We did not want to assume the worst about the author, and were pleasantly surprised by the concordance he and our President arrived to at the end. To our understanding, based solely on this conversation, the author had no intent to police or harm Black students on this campus. The author simply could not see why his criticism of Kaepernick did just that. He explained to our President that he genuinely believed Kaepernick’s intention was to bring up a conversation about police brutality, and that Kaepernick’s kneeling did not accomplish that, it instead started a conversation about the flag. Because of this, Kaepernick’s protest was as he phrased it “ineffectual.”
Our President informed him that people who knelt at the protest were not the ones detracting from the conversation, and that if he wanted to amplify Kaepernick’s message, he should criticize those who were offended by kneeling. In response to this, he expressed that after researching the topic, many writers for publications like the New York Times were doing just that, and that he wanted to add another perspective to the conversation. Together they came to the conclusion that he was not attempting to actually engage with the issue of police brutality, but was instead reiterating the perspectives that Black people who sat at lunch counters encountered over 50 years ago. She illustrated how the article followed a white supremacist narrative that preceded many of us. One that places the blame on Black people for their own oppression, and challenges them instead of directing energy into challenging white supremacy. The author, the host of a radio show about the history of hip hop, agreed that he was uninformed of the Black experience, and that it was not his place to judge or police it. By the end of the conversation, they both agreed that his article was missing crucial components. He expressed to her that he was interested in being a good ally, and that these were not narratives that he was interested in sustaining. At the end of the conversation, she made it clear that while he privately made it known that he was wrong, to mend the error, he would need to publicly claim the same. In other words, even though our President understood where he was coming from, he needed to make that acknowledgment to the entire community if he was truly willing to be a part of the cause to alleviate the oppression of Black people. He thanked her for her emotional labor, and said that he would spend time reflecting. She suggested that he write another article to convey that his first article was not something that represented his opinion, one that was complicit in anti-Blackness. She offered to help him with it, and told him she was available all weekend. Members of SASS have also suggested stronger op-ed policies to avoid incidents that have targeted low-income students in the past, along with other discriminatory articles. These policies have been denied.
Tuesday morning the author informed us that he changed his mind. He shared with us a statement. In it he wrote, “After speaking with many people about this, what I’m not willing to do is apologize for writing the article or expressing my opinion… I will not be cowed into submission and silenced under the threat of other students trying to get me fired. People on this campus will not silence me or police my activism, simply because I don’t 100% agree with radical leftist dogma.” [The emphasis was placed by the original author.] The rest of his statement is attached. At present, he is the new Editor-in-chief of the Daily Gazette. We refuse to support a publication that rewards unapologetic anti-Blackness with a job promotion, and one that continues to release under-researched, mis-informed op-eds for web traffic.
SASS’ intent is not to vilify the Gazette, or its Editor-in-chief, but to criticize the widespread campus culture that advocates for the harm of Black students for the sake of “conversation”. A dialogue that usually excludes our perspective altogether. SASS’ top priority is to protect the wellbeing of the Black students on this campus. We do not believe the means through which to do this is through the conservative vs. liberal polarization, or arguments on Facebook. We believe that the way to do this is to uplift our perspectives and inform people of our side. With this in mind, the Daily Gazette, and its editor has proven that Swarthmore is not a place that is ready for mature, respectful discourse as a means for humanizing Black voices and Black lives.
SASS is boycotting the Daily Gazette, and we would appreciate the support of our community and allies in doing the same by unsubscribing from the Daily Gazette and supporting campus platforms, like Voices, that are being created to foster constructive discourse around the experiences of marginalized students.
From the Swarthmore African-American Student Society Executive Board