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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Eternal Internal Debate

Like many people, my inner dialogue is almost constantly running. There are a lots of imaginary conversations going on in there, but often (and probably more often than I really should) I find myself debating whether it's worse when someone is openly bigoted or a closet-case bigot. Ideally, of course, people shouldn't be bigoted asshole fuckwads in the first place. But that isn't the current reality.

On the one hand, an in-your-face, open bigot can be seen coming from a mile away. You know straight away that you're dealing with someone's real xyz-ist bullshit; you can react to it in some way. On the other hand, if someone is closeted about their bigotry, then it's more difficult to even figure out that it's there in the first place. So it can't really be addressed and they can't really ever be called out about it. know...they'll at least put on the nice act to your face. Sure it's disingenuous, but at least you aren't being verbally / physically confronted with their shittiness, which can be range from extremely taxing to extremely dangerous -- especially if you be belong to one (or more) of the groups against which some people hold prejudices.

Still, I haven't been able to decide which type of bigot is preferable. It's a bit like knowing that you have to get clocked in the groin with a baseball bat, but in one scenario you can see the bat coming towards you and in the other you're blindfolded. Even though the first one sounds better (because you don't have to deal with all of the anxiety of not knowing when you'll get hit), in the end, you're still going to have to take a baseball bat to the junk.

Facebook (at least the Smithie group) was abuzz this evening with a recent letter from an alumna to editor of The Sophian (the Smith College newspaper). Here's an excerpt:

I read your article about [President] Carol [Christ]'s resignation...It mentioned the percentage increase in the population of women of color and foreign students...

As someone who has followed admissions for many years, I can tell you how the school is viewed by students in Westchester and Fairfield Counties...The children have parents who are highly educated and accomplished and have high household incomes. The children are programmed from day one to get into Ivy League schools...

The people who are attending Smith these days are A) lesbians or B) international students who get financial aid or C) low-income women of color who are the first generation in their family to go to college and will go to any school that gives them enough money... or D) white heterosexual girls who can't get into Ivy League schools.

...Low-income black and Hispanic students generally have lower SATs than whites or Asians of any income bracket. This is an acknowledged fact because they don't have access to expensive prep classes or private tutors.

I can tell you that the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships.

-Anne Spurzem '84

There were a lot of feelings that came up when I read the full letter, which you can find here. First, I was confused as to why and how this woman thought that writing a racist, classist, homophobic letter was going to be a good idea. Then, I was saddened at the thought that there could potentially be other fellow alumnae who agree with Ms. Spurzem's position. But, overall, I feel incredibly psyched that she's getting called the fuck out by so many different people and groups and that it's abundantly clear that far more people disagree with and denounce the sentiments that she submitted to the paper.

My first instinct is to send a hearty "Fuck you!" her way.

Second instinct was to write this post. I don't want to pick apart the letter and explain why the things she wrote were classist, racist and homophobic. I just spoke about this with Frosty on the phone and he said something with which I also agree: There's nothing in this letter that is a new spin on racism, classism or homophobia. It's not reinventing the wheel and the arguments for why these things are not acceptable have been laid out by people who are far better writers than I'll ever be.

I do, however, want to do my own little part to help the world know when they google Anne Spurzem's name that these are the comments that she publicly submitted that they were uninspired, mean-spirited, bigoted drivel to which she should be fully held accountable.

- Raven Brooks '03

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