Latest racist (?) graffiti:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

This weekend, a student discovered the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” written several times on a whiteboard in the kitchen of Thompson Hall. The Black Riders Liberation Party is an organization that uses modern marketing tactics to promote a black supremacist ideology. The group is especially known for trying to provoke reactions on college campuses.

We don’t yet know who wrote the name on the board, or what their intent was in doing so. Because the organization is one that promotes hatred, we will investigate the report as a possible bias incident and Campus Safety and Security is trying to identify the author of the graffiti.

If you have information you think will aid the investigation, please call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 or submit information through OIDE’s Bias Incident Reporting form. The form includes an option to report anonymously.

Williams should be a place where everyone is welcome. Many of the conversations at next week’s Claiming Williams events will focus on how to fulfill that promise, and we look forward to doing that work with you all.

Sincerely,

Leticia S.E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) What are the odds that this is a hate hoax, meaning that the person who left the note is not actually a supporter of BRLP? I am not sure. On one hand, hate hoaxes are very common at Williams (and elsewhere). On the other, BRLP is a fairly obscure (?) organization. The typical hate hoax is much less subtle.

2) Why is this defined as “graffiti?” The convention, I believe, is that whiteboards are for writing stuff on. If Thompson has a whiteboard, along with a markers publicly available for writing on it, then writing the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” is, by definition, not graffiti.

3) Why is this a “possible bias incident?” Again, assume that the Thompson whiteboard is publicly available and that students are allowed, even encouraged, to write on it. If no student would be punished for writing “Democratic Party,” then the College would be on thin ice if it punished a student, with no warning, for writing “Black Riders Liberation Party.” Williams, if it wants to avoid turning into a madrassa, must be viewpoint neutral with regard to political expression.

4) Who gets to decide that BRLP “promotes hatred?” And, yes, I know that the Southern Poverty Law Center has said some mean things about BRLP, but I don’t think that Williams gets to outsource its moral judgments. Scores of Williams faculty — perhaps even a majority — believe that Donald Trump “promotes hatred.” Would writing MAGA on the Thompson whiteboard also merit an investigation by Campus Safety and Security?

5) Why does the “intent” matter? (And note the awkwardness of that sentence in the email.) Williams, unless it has developed the ability to read minds, must enforce its rules in a viewpoint neutral manner. It can punish anyone who writes anything on a whiteboard or it can punish no one. It can’t punish black students (but not non-black) students for writing the same thing. Or vice versa! (What is your guess as to the race of the students who wrote this?)

6) If you are the student who did thing, and they catch you, reach out for help. There are faculty who would support you. Note, especially, that Williams never (?) punished the Mexican-American student who wrote “All Beaners Must Die” nor did it punish Mary Jane Hitler.

7) Note the absurd scare-mongering about “modern marketing tactics.” What does that mean, exactly? They use Facebook?

8) Does the Black Riders Liberation Party really “promote a black supremacist ideology?” I doubt it. Accusations about being a “Supremacist” serve the same purpose today as accusations about being a “Communist” did in the 1950s. The BRLP certainly cares about African-Americans — not that there is anything wrong with that! — and seeks to advance their interests. Calling them supremacists (when they never (?) apply that terminology to themselves) is the worst sort of demagoguery.

When will the College learn that the best way to deal with obnoxious scribbling is to ignore it? No need to hide it — just post a note in the (public?) security logs. The bigger a fuss you make, the more of it you are going to get.

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