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We Can All Do Better

Kayleigh Rhatigan ’19, Guest Writer

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When I read the op-ed “Should White Boys Still Be Allowed to Talk?” I appreciated the author’s wit and her willingness to challenge the most powerful demographic at Dickinson. In my opinion, President Ensign’s response to the op-ed is an instance of the way Dickinson consistently elevates the voices and needs of white students— especially white male students— over the needs of its students of color. 

The opinion piece that garnered such a strong response used a satirical and humorous tone to address a serious issue: the entitlement that white men exhibit when they express uninformed, ahistorical, racist opinions and make no effort to learn from those who willingly commit time and energy trying to educate them. It expressed anger, frustration, and a sincere desire for privileged people to do better. Even if the article truly wished for all white men to be silent forever (which seems to be the goal only if you naively take its satirical tone literally), the author does not have the power to enforce this. There is no actual threat on this campus to the domination of white, male voices. It is not that white men should never speak, or shouldn’t speak on issues of race and gender. It is that they are already speaking, and speaking so much that other voices— often more relevant voices— do not have the chance to be heard.

The president’s email ignores the context out of which the op-ed arose. President Ensign wrote, “Dickinson believes in free speech. We also condemn stereotyping and prejudice.” This sounds like a response (albeit a somewhat tepid one) to an incidence of racism or bigotry, rather than a response to a woman of color speaking out against racism. It reveals that the college, either in ignorance or a blatant attempt to keep donation dollars, takes no account of the histories of oppression, racism, misogyny, and misogynoir that operate to silence students of color. They are quicker to defend the fragile egos of its white, male students— the already powerful majority. President Ensign’s response marginalizes and dismisses the voice of the op-ed’s author— a painful irony considering that the author wrote the op-ed to speak out against the marginalization she faced.

I do not write this in the hopes that it will convince any of the vitriolic commenters on the op-ed, or that it will change the way our administration responds to students of color expressing their opinions. Either of these outcomes would be fantastic, of course. But my goal is to stand by the author of the op-ed, among the other students who have shown their support, and to speak to my fellow white students who find the op-ed compelling. 

We can all do better— not just the white boys, but all of us white students. When most of the college’s most powerful demographic and the administration itself respond like this to a woman of color speaking her mind, we have to stop and think about what we can do to, as the op-ed’s author wrote, “find someone whose perspective has been buried or ignored and listen to them, raise up their voice.”

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “We Can All Do Better”

  1. Garrett on February 14th, 2019 1:57 pm

    “This sounds like a response (albeit a somewhat tepid one) to an incidence of racism or bigotry, rather than a response to a woman of color speaking out against racism”

    She wasn’t speaking out against racism, she was endorsing it. Really telling that the most recent opinion articles are both defending her blatant bigotry, sounds like the writers are just one big KKK of their own….just with a different target.

  2. Abigail Prang on February 14th, 2019 4:40 pm

    Amen, Kayleigh!

  3. Brad on February 15th, 2019 2:41 pm

    Kayleigh,

    You mention in your response that Leda was speaking out against racism but in reality, she does not mention one racist thing that the “white boys” are doing. She castigates them for speaking and offering their opinions in class but in most classes, some component discussion is invited and/or expected. Perhaps if she gave at least a single concrete example of what was sad and where that took place, one could get a sense of what she is talking about but her accusations are so general that there is no way to know what was so offensive. Taking it as written and not reading between the lines, all you can say is that they were offering their opinions and somehow she has the omnipotence to understand that when they speak, they think that only their opinions are worthy of consideration. Can you explain how she would know that? Again, she gives no clues in her writing. Leda doesn’t say that she is disinterested in hearing from a group of boys that have made racist remarks in class but rather is condemning all white boys as a group whether she knows them or has ever heard them utter a word. She is calling for all of them to be silent based only on the color of their skin and her omnipotent understanding of what is going on inside their heads. Those who defend her for this are fostering racial division so about all I can agree with you on is that “we can all do better.”

  4. James on February 15th, 2019 8:16 pm

    The tone of this column is moderate and measured, but the stereotypes embodied in it are shockingly pernicious. Whites, especially white males, all have the same “voices and needs.” And they are “privileged”,”entitled”, “uninformed”, “ahistorical”, “racist,” opinionated, with “fragile egos” and exerting “no effort to learn from those trying to educate them.” It’s amazing that Ms. Rhatigan concludes that white males, like us all, “can do better.” With all those shortcomings, it seems highly unlikely!

    Maybe if we judged others as individuals, based on their own statements and actions, we would end up with a more accurate assessment of the people around us.

    If you want to write an op-ed calling out privileged, entitled, uninformed, loudmouth racists who drown out others with more relevant voices and make no effort to learn from them, have at it. I doubt many would oppose it. It certainly wouldn’t go viral. And it would be far more nuanced and a lot harder to write, as you wouldn’t be able to lean on prejudice, stereotype, exaggeration and caricature to make your points.

    Such an op-ed would be unlikely to bruise the “fragile egos” of the white males on campus. Many would agree with your column and simply think that it didn’t apply to them. And some would be right, and some would be wrong. You simply can’t tell by the color of their skin.

  5. Casey on February 21st, 2019 9:19 pm

    So I guess King was an idiot for pushing this weird idea that you should be judged by character and not skin color? My god, you kids nowadays have some serious mental issues and every single one of your instructors should be held liable for (at minimum) 50% of it. The rest is entirely on you, your own stupidity, and your lack of appreciation for things you should be more concerned about losing that your predecessors have enjoyed for generations.

    Here’s a crazy idea: instead of repeating the same vitriolic drivel your moronic, left-laying gospel-preaching sociopath profs keep pushing into your feeble brains, why don’t you take a few minutes out of your day and realize for a change that you DO own jurisdiction over your own thoughts and actions? It’s called CRITICAL THINKING. It’s called COMMON SENSE! STOP EATING THEIR CRAP!

    Maybe, just maybe, your strategy of being insescent nimrods and looking for things to bitch about, isn’t a solid strategy? Come back down to basics. Treat each other with respect. Be kind. Do yourself a service and remember that there’s only 1 way to get value from your overpriced degrees: lobby against social justice curricula and opt for actual skill to be taught. If your instructors have nothing to offer you except appreciation for LGBTQ+ rights or racial unity, they need to be fired for having nothing to offer.

    You’re already old enough to know that we’re all on this boat together. Stop fucking around and go get an actual education because otherwise, you’re just wasting your own time and money.

  6. Hansel N Gretel on February 22nd, 2019 7:14 am

    @James perfectly said.

    Kayleigh, as a groveling, self-loathing SJW, are YOU truly doing enough? Why not give your spot up at Dickinson to a “person of color”? Why not give the “POC” the money that your parents saved for your education? After all, you have such contempt for White people.

    (I see you got an atta-girl from your fellow traveller, Abigail Prang, who, like you, is a preachy apologist for hate.)

    I had thought the “we” in “we can all do better” meant that some Dickinson student was finally standing up against the despicable racist Leda Fischer. Of course not. Instead we get little Antifa Kayleigh telling us that we are even WORSE than Fischer told us, ESPECIALLY if we in any way object to the anti-White hatred and bigotry which is clearly widespread at Dickinson.

  7. James Raynor on February 25th, 2019 7:51 am

    “There is no actual threat on this campus to the domination of white, male voices.”

    “When most of the college’s most powerful demographic and the administration itself respond like this to a woman of color speaking her mind, we have to stop and think”

    A 10 second search reveals that both the faculty and the student body of Dickenson college are 58 percent female.

    Did that amount of stopping and thinking ever occur?

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We Can All Do Better