Dear Bill (and others),
I really appreciate your effort to air the confusion, anger, and outrage
you (and presumably other "moderates") feel with regard to the recent
discussions of racism at UVM. Both you and Provost Low i think represent
the majority viewpoint rather well: That the "radical" stance of the
Commission is alienating people and we need to come together under a
banner that Vermonters and UVMers can support. I wish that such a
solution was possible. If only provost Low's decision would really
foster unity instead of squelching the radical viewpoint! Unfortunately,
my observation of other social change movements has shown that in order
for progress to be made, radical views MUST be expressed, MUST scare
people and upset people, or change will not occur. Would the US
political leadership have tolerated or listened to Martin Luther King
without Malcolm X "stirring up trouble" as well?
Additionally, I think that, without intending to, you and others have
tended to magnify what you think that the Commission and we other
"radicals" are saying. Just because I, and others, believe UVM to be a
racist institution does not mean I think it is a "terrible" place.
Just because we identify racism as a severe problem here at UVM does not
mean that we do NOT think that others are oppressed as well.
And if some ALANA students regret their decision to come here, why should
they NOT convey that opinion to prospective students? Are we whites so
selfish that we want to dupe students of color into coming here so that
we can pat ourselves on the back for having achieved "diversity" at the
price of these students' happiness?
The most controversial "radical" notion seems to be the idea that all
whites are racist. For some reason, people find this idea intolerable. I
understand that it makes one feel bad to have this label, but I also
happen to believe that it is the truth. Of course, it depends upon your
definition of racism, and I tend to have a broader definition of racism
than most people (Racism = any action or inaction that serves the purpose
of maintaining or strengthening the racist status quo). I do not enjoy
being part of a racist group, but I am. The pain that I experience
because I have accepted this label is my motivation to continue
dismantling racism on a daily basis. "Nicer" self-definitions tend to
lead to inaction on my part. How do you integrate anti-racism into your
daily life if you are not spurred on in this fashion? (an honest
question, not a rhetorical one.)
So Bill, I applaud your efforts to rally "moderates" to your cause of
discussion and compromise. History will listen to the moderates, as has
always been true. But your cause (if it really is your cause) is doomed
without the voices of the "radicals" in the background, demanding
change. And I believe that if other moderates and conservatives attempt
to silence the radical voices, they will only find that they cannot put a
lid on this simmering pot. The pot is bound to boil over and burn someone!
John Dewey Hall "Trying to make things easy
University of Vermont results in great difficulties."
Burlington, VT 05405 --Lao Tzu