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Letters: More respond to Ray Kelly controversy

I thank Professor of Biology Ken Miller ’70 P’02 for sharing how he was able to withstand the pleas of Holocaust survivors and walk past them to gain a lesson on the attractions of fascism from an American Nazi. I don’t think I could have done so. On the other hand, as a historian, I wouldn’t have needed that lesson. That said, I want to point out that every movement toward social justice in U.S. history has included “misbehavior.” “Misbehavior” is a tactic of the disempowered toward disrupting the status quo. Closing off discourse was not the protesters’ intention. A demand for a level playing field in that discourse was. I suspect that had Ray Kelly been invited to speak as part of a Janus Forum, it would not have roused nearly as much opposition, if any at all. So unlike Miller, I applaud the student protesters for their moral courage in a righteous cause against racial profiling and brutal police tactics and for their resolution in the face of the harsh criticisms they have since endured. I am proud of you. You inspire me to try to be a better teacher, scholar and person.

Naoko Shibusawa P’14, associate professor of history

 

Let’s face it: The overwhelming majority of people who berated the speaker and prevented other dissenting (but respectful) students from constructively debating “stop-and-frisk” did so not after thoroughly educating themselves about the nuances of the topic but because it’s the cool thing to do at Brown. It was the same way 10 years ago. I remember passing through an anti-sweatshop rally en route to a class as an undergrad and saying to somebody, “Where do you think the Nike sneakers and Gap sweater you’re wearing came from?”

Name-calling and obstructing legitimately curious people from having a meaningful dialogue accomplishes nothing except refuting the notion that people admitted to Brown are rational thinkers. Sadly, Brown has become the laughingstock of the Ivy League. You don’t need a high SAT score to make reductionist and unrefined statements like “cops are oppressive, racist assholes” or “Ray Kelly is a terrorist.” While on deployment with the military in Iraq (a war I opposed if that matters, but feel free to make assumptions about me), my team searched for a real terrorist, who had strapped a suicide vest to a mentally retarded child in a mosque — it’s a big deductive leap to equate Ray Kelly with someone like that.

Words matter, especially at the policy level, where real change occurs. Racial profiling sucks, but it’s not terrorism. Equating racial profiling with the generally accepted definition of terrorism hinders any effort to effectively remedy suspect policing. Brown students are supposed to be the best and the brightest, the future leaders of their communities and even the world. Simplifying complex issues into divisive sound bites is not the solution. Brown can do better.

Doug Kechijian ’02

 

The past few days have shown us the best and the worst parts of being part of the Brown community. We’ve seen people organize some incredible movements, win battles, lose battles, fight all over Facebook, find common ground with unexpected partners, agree, disagree and agree to disagree. We’ve yelled at each other, with each other, and many of us have even cried out of visceral emotion and frustration.

Tuesday afternoon, I was angry. I felt silenced by all the emotions around me and by my own conflicting feelings of allegiance to a variety of friends and communities. Sometimes it is best to be silent and to just listen.

The past few days, I’ve listened to people all over the spectrum of views on this campus. I’ve argued with some, and I’ve sat quietly and tried to understand others. Wednesday night, I sat in Alumnae Hall with 600 of my peers, and I listened some more. And I can honestly say that I have never been prouder to be a part of this community of Brunonians.

We are different colors. We are different genders. We come from so many different backgrounds and experiences. We are intellectuals, and we are protesters, and we are activists and thought-leaders, but first and foremost, we are one passionate community. And to be at a place where we can have these conversations, even while our differences persist, makes me prouder than I’ve ever been to call myself a Brown student.

Elena Saltzman ’16

 



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