Adam Falk has a habit of panicking at the sight of graffiti. This is an unhelpful personality tick for a Williams president to have in this day and age. The more he panics — the more all-campus e-mails, the more calls to the police, the more sturm und drang — the more graffiti incidents to come. Feeding the trolls is a bad idea, on the web or at Williams.

Consider the latest incident. Here is the photo:

Banner

Here is a close up:

kkcloseup

If just this (inconclusive!) image causes you to call the police (!), you are a fool.

First, it is not clear if this is actual graffiti! Those 3 Ks look different, as if they were written at different times, perhaps with different pens. The first two Ks seem fairly intentional. Perhaps there is a student nicknamed KK in the class of 2019? It would certainly be wise to try to find out before calling the FBI. (Not sure if Williams called the FBI on this one, but they have done so in the past.) In fact, it could be that the third K was written first (I see other faded out letters around it) and then the KK was added.

Second, even if this was written intentionally, the odds are that it was done so by a left-wing student, not by an actual supporter of the KKK. Recall that the Griffin Hall KKK vandalism last fall was created by left-wing students upset at Trump’s election. The racist graffiti in Prospect in 2011 was written by Jess Torres ’12, a minority Democratic activist.

Third, even if it was done intentionally and was not written by a left-wing student, it might have been done innocently. I realize that my Eph social justice warrior friends think that KKK is one of the worst symbols in the world and that everyone knows this. But (sadly?) that isn’t true. There are 200+ non-US citizens at Williams, many of them as clueless about American racial politics as you, dear reader, are about, say, Hindu nationalism. Recall the KKK cook-out of 2004.

fistFourth, even if it was done intentionally by someone who understood the meaning of KKK, it does not follow that punishment is a allowable (or wise) course of action. Note that the clenched fist on the poster, which seems likely (just to me?) to be a nod to the traditional symbol of Black Power. Once the College allows political symbols to be included on the banner — without any indication that this is against the rules — it would have trouble punishing someone for putting a different political symbol on the same banner. (It could forbid it and/or remove KKK. But it would have difficulty punishing a student for doing that, or at least with punishing a student willing to fight the system.

Instead of panicking, Falk should take a page out of Morty’s handbook and ignore the trolls. Students do stupid things and the bigger a deal you make of it, the more likely you are to get more of it. Now, if real damage is being done (as in Griffin) or serious (fake!) threats are being made (as in Prospect), then you do need to investigate. But for trivial stuff like this, your best bet is silence.

Recall how Morty handled Mary Jane Hitler a decade ago. Summary: This was an infinitely more serious situation with an actual Nazi on campus, putting up posters on student dorm room doors, with help from his Eph girlfriend, who Morty decided not to punish in any way.

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