Is standing necessary?

Is anyone else tired of The Pact? I mean, it is literally impossible to walk down a hallway or enter a classroom without encountering it. High on the walls and high on their horses, The Pact and those who signed it loom over us at all times, accusatory in their tone and unflinching in their righteousness. I can hardly imagine what visitors think as they pass through our halls and classrooms wallpapered with The Pact. Without a lengthy explanation, I’m sure that we must come off as a school fighting and losing a war against rampant student body racism. And after hearing a lengthy explanation they must think that we are a school of hypochondriacs prone to overblown and irrational overreactions. Yes, something happened. But no, it is not indicative of a widespread campus problem.

In no way am I advocating indifference to racism, but I do champion rationality and pragmatism. Sitting in my classes, I have struggled to understand how the poster can say “We are Williams students and we see hate and indifference here and now;” the only indifference that I see is that of some of my classmates to the lecture material, and somehow I don’t think that’s what the posters are targeting.

I think that the “We” from the posters is selling us very short. I contend that Williams College is not a place that overlooks or tolerates racism. This wasn’t somebody calling someone else the “N-word” in an argument. This wasn’t a racist joke overheard in the snack bar line. This recent “attack” was expressly performed out of the public eye – something that hardly suggests the offender was expecting an outpouring of support, or even indifference, from our campus. If someone dumb enough to be writing racial slurs and drawing penises on entry doorways understands that his or her racist handiwork is not going to be tolerated, why are we as an institution having such a difficult time wrapping our heads around it? Why this urge to sweepingly indict ourselves as a whole over the actions of a few?

The Feb. 13 meeting that took place in Paresky was an undeniably powerful show of solidarity and a well-run forum for intelligent discussion. However, as is always the case, people showing up to these sorts of events are themselves not the ones who need to become better informed. In regards to the rally, one part that I had some issue with was the section where students shared testimonials with those gathered. Two of these testimonials were truly saddening examples of racism’s presence at Williams, and I hope that they have been addressed in satisfactory ways. Four of the testimonials, though, I found to be lacking as true examples of racism at our school; I found myself writing them off as certainly being unpleasant or uncomfortable, but not racist. Finally, one speaker gave a testimonial that, while shockingly homophobic, actually had nothing to do with Williams. It literally didn’t happen here. Let me be clear: in no way do I want to diminish the ignorance or hurtfulness of those remarks, or the bravery of the speaker who stood up and shared them with us. I simply want to point out that they should not reflect poorly on Williams. I reiterate that the rally was a fine idea for anyone who wanted to go. However its attendance was voluntary, and I disagree with the group’s foisting of their propaganda on the student body at large. It’s just as easy to ignore a poster as it is to ignore a rally, if not easier. The Pact is busywork and largely embarrassing.

All of this may have helped people to feel like they were doing something to proactively combat racism, but I just feel like it really wasn’t necessary. The person who did it obviously already knew it wasn’t going to fly with either the student body or the administration, or else they wouldn’t have gone to such lengths of secrecy and anonymity. There should have been an open letter from Morty, signed by the Deans (Morgan and Kim would inevitably tack their names on), re-affirming what everyone already knew – Cut the crap. Perhaps it could have gone something like this:

“Dear Racist Penis Doodler,

Are you kidding? You have proved yourself to be both staggeringly intolerant and enormously stupid. You and your commentary are completely unwelcome here at Williams. Because you did this in secret we have no way of catching you, but I strongly urge you to keep any thoughts of this nature to yourself for the rest of your years at Williams. Once you have quietly graduated and kept our retention rate competitive with Amherst’s, I suggest you get hit by a school bus. If I knew who you were I would kick you in the face wearing hockey skates.

-All the Best, Morton”

Morgan Phillips ’08 is a history major from Middle Haddam, Conn.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *