Published: Monday, November 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
As concerned faculty and graduate students who form the Race and Ethics Seminar, we feel that Kristy Barnes’ column in The Heights, “Hypersensitive Halloween”, makes for an important and useful “teaching moment.” When a bright young woman of 19 with many educational opportunities nevertheless seems to lack understanding of white privilege or the violence of words in perpetuating ideas of “otherness,” it is surely time to ask if we are doing an adequate job of talking about race and difference in our classes. Barnes’ sense that to be critically reflective constitutes “being offensive” also displays a lack of understanding of the philosophical authors whom she cites. We are particularly grieved by the misinterpretation of Montaigne, whose own appeals to question “custom” were intended to guard against the privileging of European culture as that culture increasingly encountered unfamiliar civilizations.
We as a community must bring more awareness of the relationship between power and speech, where the rage against any regulation of speech and behavior drown out any plea for decency and consideration. We propose that, as the University undertakes a revision of its core curriculum, serious consideration be given to the education of students on issues of race, gender, and social class, as well as how one can communicate respectfully about these issues.
Ultimately, it is not only what we wear for Halloween that is at issue here, but also how we wear it. And to have that discussion we need to educate students like Barnes that race and culture concern them as much as they do the guy in a sombrero hat.
Kalpana Seshadri, Associate Professor, English
Marina McCoy, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Deborah Levenson-Estrada, Associate Professor, History
Amelia Wirts, Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy
Martin Summers, Associate Professor, History
Mary Troxell, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Irene Ruiz Dacal, Doctoral Candidate, English
Zachary Morgan, Assistant Professor, History
Rhonda Frederick, Director of African and African Diaspora Studies and Associate Professor, English
Arissa Oh, Assistant Professor, History