By Alexander Andrei Bonano
Dear Professor Schaefer,
As a senior, a student of color, and an advocate for social justice and inclusion, I decided to send you a response to the article you posted. In reading your article, “Holy Cross College Dishonors Its Heritage,” I found myself in shock, and also in disbelief, that a professor at the College of the Holy Cross would write such an article. With that being said, I had to remember that everyone at the College should have his own opinion and that even though I may disagree, I should respect it. However, when an opinion is rooted in the oppression and the denial of my humanity, and the right to exist, this conversation becomes more than simply the differing of two opinions.
It has already been brought to your attention that there were many errors in the coverage of the event. Although the demonstration had nothing to do with the national anthem, I would like to engage you in a quick history lesson. The lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner come from the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” written by Francis Scott Key. Although the first stanza is all that has been popularized and remains the only stanza sung today, there are four stanzas in total. The third stanza states:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This refers to the killing of approximately 4,000 slaves living in the U.S. who had escaped during the War of 1812, some of whom worked with the British, as seen in Alexander Cochrane’s proclamation of April, 2nd, 1814. Whether or not this knowledge was known by Colin Kaepernick, or anyone else who chooses to sit, it is their human right to do so.
Moving forward, the employment of divisive and dog-whistle rhetoric, in combination with skewed and incomplete information are the main issues that need to be addressed. You start off by stating how Colin Kaepernick “‘staged’ a protest against the alleged mistreatment of black people in America.”
In utilizing the word “alleged” you are completely disregarding the oppression of black people in America—especially the African-American population. Being that my academic discipline is in Public and Global Health, it is best that I provide background as to why the word “alleged” is inadequate and disrespectful. In a national study titled What if we were Equal: A comparison of the black-white mortality gap in 1960 and 2000 (2005), researchers found over 83,000 excess deaths in the African-American community alone. This is the “equivalent to a major airliner filled with Black passengers falling out of the sky every single day, every single year.” Racial discrimination and microaggressions are proven factors of these excess deaths, as they are linked with high blood pressure, increased rates of infant mortality, and coronary artery disease. Biological markers can be changed as a result of the burden of severely heightened vigilance. With that being said, it is completely fraudulent to dismiss the fact that there is a mistreatment of black people in America. There is absolutely nothing alleged about it.
In addition to the inequalities in health caused by racial discrimination, police brutality has been rampant during these past few years. You argue that the “greatest threat to black lives in contemporary America comes not from the police, but from African-American gang members and other criminals against whom the law-abiding African-American population, more than any other segment of the American people, desperately needs increased, not reduced, police protection.” The argument made about intercommunal violence in African-American communities is neither valid nor relevant. It is a derailment technique employed to avoid the real issue at hand. There is no validation in existence to explain why every 28 hours a black or brown unarmed man is killed by the police. Additionally, your very forced creation of a dichotomy between law-abiding African Americans and the African-American “gang members” and “criminals” perpetuates the killing and criminalization of black bodies in the United States. This unfortunately has led to legalization of murder as seen with the high acquittal rate of police officers and “other criminals” who have killed innocent and unarmed African-Americans.
Lastly, you forget to mention the systemic and institutional racism that has led to the issues seen in certain cities. You mention Chicago as an example to validate your aforementioned claim. However, your ignorance in speaking on the issue of redlining and the subsequent lack of resources given to the education, housing, and health systems in these communities paints a very skewed and deceptive picture. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states that “the single story creates stereotypes; and the problem with stereotypes is not they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Often times, those who are in power dictate how the story is told and who gets to tell it. With that being said, I will do everything in my might to ensure that those who are disenfranchised both on and off of this campus are given a platform to speak, and that incorrect and skewed portrayals are addressed.
Please check your privilege as you are an educator at the College who could be making a difference. Attend events, speak with both the administration and students of color, and try to be understanding, not dismissive. The employment of tactics such as derailment (intercommunal violence argument), tokenism (I have friends/family who are “____” argument), minimization (overly sensitive argument), reduction (“X population isn’t the only one being hurt” argument) and emotional immaturity (“this makes me unsafe, upset argument”) are not conducive to moving the conversation forward about race relations in the U.S. All in all, if there is nothing else you learned from this article, I would hope that you would at least understand why our “acknowledgment” on this campus is not as trivial as you make it seem.
Alexander Andrei Bonano ‘17