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Fong ’14, Kwon ’14, Li ’14, Rajan ’15, Furuyama ’15: Freedom of speech or freedom to silence?

In light of the Taubman Center of Public Policy and American Institutions’ decision to host Ray Kelly, police commissioner of the city of New York and creator of the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy, members of the Brown and Providence communities have come together to demand his lecture be cancelled. In response, others within the Brown community have defended the lecture on the grounds of freedom of speech. Those who oppose the cancellation have argued opposition is an act of censorship. Students have argued this lecture should instead be used as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and challenge Kelly by asking “tough questions” during the question and answer session after his talk.

But this lecture is not about creating a space for dialogue, nor has it ever been. Even Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center, said in a phone conversation with students the event was “not designed for debate.” The center decided to showcase Kelly’s policies alone, effectively excluding other opinions on this issue.

There are innumerable stories of racial profiling and abuse due to stop-and-frisk. Minorities face prejudice, undue scrutiny and pressure because of Kelly’s ideology, which has spread around the country.

There are many students and community members who have been personally affected by racial profiling and police brutality. The psychological harm that will be inflicted on them by Kelly’s speech cannot be dismissed in the spirit of engaging with different perspectives. For those who have experienced criminalization based on the color of their skin, this is not simply an “intellectual debate.” Basic civil rights should never be up for debate.

Kelly’s institutional power has allowed him not only to express his views, but also to translate them into real policy. Each time he tells his story of “proactive policing,” he silences those who have experienced the violent repercussions of his ideas. Their stories of victimization and criminalization are the ones censored in mainstream media. Thus, rhetoric of “free speech” within this context only argues for the “freedom” to silence and mask the violence inflicted upon communities of color.

Therefore, we demand Kelly’s lecture be cancelled and the honorarium set aside for the lecture be donated to organizations working to end racial profiling and police brutality in Providence and New York. Canceling this event would be an act of resistance against the policies of Kelly and the censorship of marginalized stories. Through advocating for the cancellation, we stand in solidarity with the communities around the United States that have led campaigns to end racial profiling and police brutality.

Cynthia Fong ’14, Juhee Kwon ’14, Jenny Li ’14, Radhika Rajan ’15 and William Furuyama ’15 urge the community to rise up against Ray Kelly’s paid on-campus platform.

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  • Cynthia Fong

    As one of the student contributors, this article was edited without our permission or knowledge.

    The editor reduced the following story to a single sentence: “This is one of the stories that have not been told. A local resident recounted his experiences of growing up in Providence. All his life, his skin color seemed to advertise criminality to the police. In every part of the city, he has been interrogated, handcuffed, strip-searched, and subjected to many forms of physical and psychological violence.”

    By reducing this story to “Minorities face prejudice, undue scrutiny and pressure because of Kelly’s ideology, which has spread around the country” without consulting the student contributors is not okay.

    • Oh

      Editors edit, that’s what they do. As long as they don’t change your position, they have no obligation to consult you. You provided no proof of your claim, and it cannot be verified under those circumstances. I am sympathetic to the victim, but it would be poor journalism to print your original quote as it was.

      • Journalism

        Editing, done right, ensures that the articles of guest contributors are presented in the manner in which the guest contributors intended. To do otherwise is disingenuous and poor journalism.

        • Journalism

          Plus, what is this crap – the article’s been posted twice. Does the BDH not skim before posting online? Smh.

      • Will Furuyama

        While I realize that “editors edit,” I also think that when words are being attributed an author, it is imperative that they accurately reflect what author is trying to communicate. While the decision to include the example of the individual’s story may have partially been to point out that “minorities face prejudice, undue scrutiny and pressure because of Kelly’s ideology, which has been spread around the country,” its larger purpose was two-fold. It was intended to communicate that racial profiling is not unique to New York and is happening specifically in our community in a way that intimately affects the lives of many people of color both on our campus and in the wider Providence and Rhode Island areas. Additionally, the example was also intended to provide a specific experience to couch the “criminalization” and “racial profiling” that are talked about more abstractly throughout the article. Furthermore, the term “minorities” is a term that often encompasses wide ranging groups of marginalized people, whereas the intent was to talk specifically about people of color. Additionally, there are countless examples of journalism that cite sources without printing names because sources desire to remain anonymous—this does not invalidate the experience of those individuals. If the BDH wanted further clarification about our source, their staff should have contacted us before adding content that does not reflect our views.

        • Jordan Shaw

          This edit betrays the BDH’s failure to engage with these issues enough to understand the intentionality that went into the powerful story that the authors tried to give voice. By watering down the narrative, the person or people who altered this op-ed from the authors’ submission directly contribute to the problem that inspired the authors, and many compassionate individuals on this campus, to action in the first place.

        • Get Over Yourselves…

          How can a group of exclusively asian students at a top tier school claim to represent a “wide ranging group of marginalized people” ? (to go along with your preponderance on race and oppression and privelege).

    • Kyle Albert

      If y’all would be interested in potentially republishing the unaltered piece on Bluestockings, let me know!

    • Adam A

      I know from experience it’s frustrating to have your writing changed without being directly consulted, but it’s absolutely okay for them to do it if they don’t change your viewpoint.

  • dbr1

    ‘Each time he tells his story of “proactive policing,” he silences those
    who have experienced the violent repercussions of his ideas.’

    This makes no sense, except on some bizarre emotional level.

  • on the internet 4ever!

    good then. you five morons are on the record as left-wing totalitarians. let’s not have any confusion next time you’re out waving your signs.

  • me too

    Really grown up, you don’t like what someone has to say so you shout them down.
    If that’s your idea of a dialog perhaps you should try taking some basic civics
    classes.