Karen goes to Smith College.
This past week, a white Smith College employee posted a video to Youtube that is, on pretty much all accounts, excruciating to watch. I’ve included a few of the worse quotes from the video throughout this, and I also want to throw in a warning of sorts — this could be exhausting, painful, annoying, or any of a set of not-good things for those who’ve had to live with this shit their entire lives.
Anyway, yeah, this is about racism.
Pretty sure that anyone who thinks of Smith and doesn’t go here tends to think of it the way I did — brick, ivy, elite… white.
It is, indeed, all that, but it’s also a campus peppered with Black Lives Matter signs, and a campus that is trying to work toward a more diverse population and equitable environment for all. Considering its history, however, it’s facing a formidable job, and also one that requires treading very carefully.
Within a day of this video’s publication, the college acknowledged that while this employee is within her rights to share her opinions, “This employee does not speak for the college or any part of the college. Further, we believe the video mischaracterizes the college’s important, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive living, learning and working environment.”
So yes, it’s a big issue, a big one, and a weird scenario given that we’re all remote right now. This would be chaos, live on campus, otherwise. For now, it’s all on the internet, and it’s ugly.
“Stop demanding that I admit to ‘white privilege’ and work on my so-called ‘implicit bias’ as a condition of my continued employment.”
It’s so ugly, in fact, that yesterday more than one prof blew off the syllabus in lieu of discussing this, including my White Supremacy in the Age of Trump class — a class taught by none other than the esteemed Loretta Ross, Dread Feminist.
I link her talk, in which she speaks out against calling out, because this, among a few other things, are what gave me pause when I was ready to ignite my keyboard. Immediate reactions to this video were indeed of the “calling out” sort, and for many students, that rage was righteous and necessary. While I don’t necessarily see this as an opportunity for “calling in” (and even less so as ‘conservative’ media steps in to promote this woman’s ‘cause’), I do believe it my responsibility not to take up too much reactionary space. Indeed I’m pissed off that people I love and care about have been subjected, yet again, to this, but… unfortunately this woman is “my people”. Can I talk to her? I might have been able to, yesterday. Today, much as she claims to be a “lifelong liberal,” I think it has become less possible.
Some ill things have happened on this campus (including an incidence of “sleeping while Black”). While concerted efforts have been made by the college to address this, clearly… clearly we are still working on things here.
One of the many things that have been implemented are staff trainings, which clearly Karen is not handling so well. The incident she alludes to in her video was an angry student response to the dining hall staff that called security on a student sleeping in a student lounge. Karen, you need to understand that rage for what it was. I mean, just imagine, Karen, if this happened to you. What sort of emotions would you feel?
“Stop telling me that as a white person I am quote ‘especially responsible’ for doing the work of dismantling racism.”
Within a day, the video had over 4000 thumbs-down — all of which have mysteriously disappeared at the time of this writing. Youtube can choose to remove these when it assumes a ‘dislike mob,’ but I can assure you that until conservative media got a hold of this, those 4000 dislikes were valid — the internet moves very fast these days. Thumbs down and initial comments came from a sizeable (and homebound) student population, passers-by from social media shares and also many staff and faculty who were not pleased that she chose to try and speak for them.
“I don’t really feel that valuable anymore, because I don’t feel like you value me. I feel like my skin color is the most important thing about me and that doesn’t feel good.”
Northampton is about as white, perhaps even more so, than the rural northern California town I came here from. There are likely more Black Lives Matter signs here than there are Black people, but literally nine miles away is Holyoke, and six miles further is Springfield, Massachusetts, both with sizeable communities of color. Many staff here live in surrounding towns now thanks to the rising and ridiculous housing costs of Northampton.
This isn’t about the “critical race theory brainwashing” taking place on campus. This isn’t about divisiveness, unless you want to make it into that (you could, instead, just do the damn work of dismantling the white supremacy that is and has been, since the start, encoded in every single aspect of this country’s structure, and the real source of divisiveness). This isn’t about “wokeness,” either, unless you have issues with the fact that some people have indeed awoken to the fact that this shit is systemic and long-standing.
“…we have the right to work in an environment free from the ever-present terror that any unverified student allegation of racism, or any other -ism has the power to crush our reputations…”
This is the voice of a very terrified group of white people realizing that yeah, it really does suck to have assumptions made about you because of the color of your skin. It really does suck to feel like you are not a valued person because of the color of your skin. Yeah Karen, according to the many, many people with this lived experience, it so does.
Video is posted below, should you dare or care. I should also add that this woman was responsible for housing concerns for my student class, though thankfully, she is no longer. She still has a job here, just not with us — if she can’t understand the lived experiences of some of our residents, she is in no place to represent us. And yeah, yeah she did. She called in the Civil Rights Act here. Poor, poor oppressed Karen.
I guess, if anything, this is a front row seat to everything I’ve been learning in this White Supremacy class. I’ll just be over here with my popcorn while this “lifelong liberal” embraces the conservative media.