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Thompson Graffiti

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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15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Thompson Graffiti"

#1 Comment By Aidan On January 25, 2019 @ 2:50 pm

Pretty outre statement by the Deans, given that calling materials affixed to walls “White Board(s)” is itself a racist microaggression.

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On January 25, 2019 @ 2:53 pm

Aidan: We miss you! Come write for EphBlog . . .

#3 Comment By Random On January 25, 2019 @ 3:34 pm

Williams students, faculty and staff,

This weekend, a student discovered the phrase “Identity Evropa” written several times on a whiteboard in the kitchen of Thompson Hall. Identity Evropa is an organization that uses modern marketing tactics to promote a white supremacist and European 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

#4 Comment By frank uible On January 25, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

Of course, when it comes to matters political, it all depends on whose ox is gored.

#5 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On January 25, 2019 @ 6:37 pm

Random: Wait a second! What is going on??

Your version is just like my version, except with Identity Evropa replacing Black Riders Liberation Party. Weird.

Fortunately, my comments are exactly the same for both cases. We are viewpoint neutral at EphBlog!

#6 Comment By student On January 25, 2019 @ 10:18 pm

David: the version that Random posted was the version I received in my inbox. It seems strange that there seems to be two separate versions?

#7 Comment By BH On January 26, 2019 @ 11:59 am

student- There is only one version. David replaced “Identity Evropa” with “Black Riders Liberation Party” hoping that someone with come to the defense of the latter as a legitimate expression of racial identity so that he can then say, “Gotcha! Now you have to have the exact same opinion about ‘Identity Evropa” or you are a hypocrite!” It’s a little game he enjoys playing from time to time. Presumably David does not actually believe that “Black supremacist” and white supremacist movements have played even vaguely similar roles in US society historically (though maybe I just wasn’t taught the long history of blacks lynching uppity whites in the US).

#8 Comment By Nancy On January 26, 2019 @ 12:12 pm

#CancelEphBlog

#9 Comment By Eric Knibbs On January 26, 2019 @ 2:01 pm

On the off chance that you‘re reading this and you wrote this and you want to figure out who could help you, write to me at eric.knibbs@gmail.com. I was a prof at williams until last month, so know a thing or two, and i keep confidences like a tomb.

#10 Comment By Doug On January 26, 2019 @ 8:13 pm

This is a childish post, but it’s at least thought provoking on some level. Reading the original post, I was incredibly surprised that the college would make a stand against a black socialist hate group. That’s a sad reality. But it’s also a straw-man, so whatever.

In any case, David’s right that it’s not helpful to declare a crisis and start campus dialogs every time some drunk lacrosse player wants to get a rise out of his peers with an Expo marker. It’s sending the message that a trivially small act can trigger the kind of cascading drama that certain people relish. If anyone feels harmed or upset, help them out directly. Otherwise, you’re just reinforcing the reaction that the hooligan wanted.

Or maybe we’ll start having hidden security cameras in dorms to help stop this sort of action. I wouldn’t be surprised if students start requesting this, given the current campus political climate that favors safety over freedom.

#11 Comment By anon On January 27, 2019 @ 9:30 am

Doug-

I noticed you mentioned/ qualified your right to privacy “in dorms.”

So you are good with hidden security cameras (which now exist) in common spaces at Williams?

Oh how our senses of our rights have changed. Of course, it’s only for everyones safety.

Right.

#12 Comment By atty On January 27, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

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.

For sure. It’s like, one second you’re joining a group whose founder claims that David Duke’s “My Awakening” got him started, and has claimed that immigration will “disenfranchise us from the institutions our ancestors created,” and all of a sudden people start claiming that you’re a white supremacist. I mean, how unfair can you get?

And obviously, it’s important to respect hate groups’ preferred nomenclature and terminology. And failing to do so is the . . . um, worst . . . really? . . . sort of demo-. . . I can’t, the bad faith is too powerful.

#13 Comment By Doug On January 27, 2019 @ 4:50 pm

anon, I’m definitely not okay with that and I think encroachments of that nature should be criticized and, I’d go so far as to say, vandalized whenever they crop up. We risk getting to the place we are with urine tests, where it’s totally mundane and commonplace to have your urine analyzed. It’s a major invasion of privacy.

There’s plenty of reasons to be against surveillance without being a criminal.

#14 Comment By anon On January 27, 2019 @ 5:45 pm

Doug- I agree. I am not sure why any of us should accept video surveillance at a place like Williams. But it is there.

One of the things that came out after the lunacy at the library last 4th of July was that there are cameras throughout campus. That is something that should be discussed- and stopped.

I don’t think that a private entity such as Williams should have such secret surveillance- but it does. When pics were posted the college showed that it had such mechanisms in place.

Privacy? Liberty? What is it?

#15 Comment By anonymous On January 30, 2019 @ 4:24 pm

Professor Knibbs, to whom is your comment intended?