To the Editor:
It was with anger that I read the recent letter by Sean Quigley ’10 (“No one knows what really happened Sunday,” Sept. 15). Quigley’s words were breathtakingly insensitive, cavalier and racist. Although Quigley claims that few of us know what transpired, he ascribes diabolical motives to Chipalo Street ’06 GS and to those in the community who have justly expressed their distress about police conduct and race relations.
His “analysis” is more astounding when you consider that Quigley has been at Brown less than one month. One need not wonder what racial and political stereotypes inform Quigley’s diatribe. He makes these abundantly clear in his descriptions of concerned University students as “foaming at the mouth,” “dogs,” “jackals” and a “pack” – descriptions that come from a reactionary and racist tradition of labeling minorities as subhuman, savage and bestial.
Further, Quigley’s disgusting statement that Street wanted to be like Rodney King – that Street wanted to be a victim – trivializes and condones what happened to King and Street and suggests that both men were asking to be beaten. Rodney King did not want to be Rodney King when a group of police officers beat him so severely that he was left with multiple skull fractures, broken bones and permanent brain damage. To state that Street desired the same fate has more than racist undertones. It cynically declares that racial minorities desire and benefit from the all-too-regular acts of brutality against them.
There is not sufficient space in this letter to comment on Quigley’s obliviousness to the ongoing existence of institutionalized racism, an idea that he calls bizarre. Suffice to say, even the most casual observer of Providence life would notice the ways that race, class and privilege interact in an institutionalized manner in the local high schools just blocks north of Brown University and how this in turn impacts how visible minorities at Brown are treated on campus.
If one were still new to Providence and unaware of local racial dynamics, the debacle that was Hurricane Katrina should offer an urgent reminder that institutionalized racism exists with deathly consequences for poor minorities who faced the brunt of a disaster in ways that were anything but natural. These examples do not even begin to address other forms of racism, whether subtle or overt, that infect the Brown campus and suffuse United States culture.
Quigley’s racist polemic offers nothing constructive with which to negotiate the difficult issues of police-student relations, student rights and responsibilities and race. The event last week, however, reinforces the need for a constructive discourse on all three issues. University community members have every right to inquire about what happened to one of our own and have rightfully begun the necessary process of constructively and publicly voicing concerns about relevant issues of public safety, policing and discrimination.
Gill Frank GS