Black student leaders and a collective of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander students released statements Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, about The Herald’s publication of two racist opinions columns earlier this week. In the statements, the two groups expressed their solidarity with Native and Indigenous students.
Fourteen black student organizations, along with 76 individual signatories, wrote the “Joint Statement to The Brown Daily Herald,” in which leaders of these organizations expressed “concern for and disgust of the decisions made by” The Herald.
“As black students, we are deeply offended and personally harmed by ‘The white privilege of cows’ which advocated for eugenics,” the students wrote in the statement. “We particularly want to underscore the impact that the most recent article, ‘Columbian Exchange Day,’ has had on the Native and Indigenous community at Brown.”
The black student organizations listed three demands of The Herald, including that it “admit the role it has played in consistently giving a platform to racist ideologies; publicly apologize in print and online for (its) egregious mistake and the resulting harm on members of our community; and give the Brown community a concrete and transparent plan of action.”
This plan of action would emphasize an increase in staff diversity, more stringent fact-checking for columns and a commitment to leave published columns online under all circumstances, according to the statement. Focus groups composed of students of color would review the plan of action before submitting it to the general student body for approval.
The Herald published an apology in print and online Wednesday in an editors’ note.
“Earlier this week, The Herald published two opinions columns that were not only controversial but also deeply hurtful. Errors in the editing process aside, we understand that these columns contained racist content that has no place in our paper or community,” the editorial board wrote in the note. “The organization’s editorial board will reexamine the editorial processes that allowed these mistakes and previous ones to happen.”
In the final paragraphs of the statement from the coalition of black student organizations, the authors hold The Herald accountable for the harm caused on campus. “We rebuke the BDH, its editorial board and M. Dzhali Maier (’17) for propagating and proliferating racist opinions and erasure, delegitimizing the emotions and trauma of oppressed people and for issuing a subpar statement,” the students wrote in the statement.
A collective of 21 Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander student organizations, along with 82 individual signatories, wrote a “statement out of deep concern for the recent decisions of … The Herald to publish egregiously offensive and racist content.” The statement is broken up into five sections, with the second specifically addressing the two Herald columns.
“Among the many offensive claims made by the columns was a direct invalidation of Native and Indigenous students’ planned action to hold a demonstration on October 12th demanding that the University rename Fall Weekend to Indigenous People's Day,” the students wrote in the statement. Like the black student leaders’ statement, the AAPI collective denounces The Herald for attributing the publication of the second column to an “internal error.”
“A publication of such prominence and prestige is obligated to maintain a certain quality that includes, at minimum, factual accuracy and a meticulous editorial process,” the statement continues, adding, “The Herald is obligated to amplify the voices of marginalized students.”
In the statement, the students also warn of “AAPI complicity” in privileges gained at the expense of other people of color.
“White supremacy broadcasts the economic success of a narrow subset of Asian Americans in the United States to justify the oppression of Native and Black communities,” the students wrote in the statement.
The statement concludes with a call for AAPI students to participate in two events being held by Native Americans at Brown: a die-in Friday to “raise awareness of the indigenous genocide that Columbus Day celebrates” and an Oct. 12 protest of the University’s continued use of the name “Fall Weekend” instead of “Indigenous People’s Day.”