The Dartmouth Review provides the sequence of events, starting with the Dartmouth College Republican club using its bulletin board to display “Blue Lives Matter” for National Police Week.
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine a display more deliberately provocative than this, both because of the adoption of the Black Lives Matter slogan and because Dartmouth is a hotbed of inane protest, where students risk paper cuts to protest their cause.
But speech that’s politically provocative is free speech. It’s often mistakenly expressed as the speech worthy of greatest protection, mistakenly because it suggests there are degrees of protected speech. And unsurprisingly, this bulletin board soon became the battleground, as its content was removed and replaced by Black Lives Matters materials, while students guarded the board so that the College Republicans couldn’t remove the protest materials and restore their speech.
Dartmouth, naturally, wanted only to avoid confrontation and hard feelings.
The students who waited, stood guard, to assure that their Black Lives Matters flyers wouldn’t be removed, explained with the usual unduly lengthy way of the self-righteous why their speech pre-empted the Republicans’ speech.
Today, Friday May 13th the Dartmouth College Republicans reserved a central bulletin board in Collis Atrium. On this board the Dartmouth College Republicans posted the slogan “Blue Lives Matter” FOUR times. By co-opting a movement intended to protect the livelihood of Black people, Blue Lives Matter” & #AllLivesMatter facilitates the erasure of black lives. This slogan denies that black bodies are subjected to disproportionate state violence. This has nothing to do with individual police officers.
Over the past several terms, in Collis the black lives matter installation was defaced, and the signs outside of the gender inclusive bathroom were ripped off of the walls. On our campus a native woman and man were egged after a silent protest, countless women of color have been assaulted, people of color have been called racial slurs, physically threatened, and aggressively approached in public, private, and over social media.
The #blacklivesmatter protest in the fall affirmed black existence, humanity, and resilience in light of the oppressive reality here at Dartmouth. This is our reality; we are the voices of ALL people of color in classes. It is inescapable as social media, especially yik-yak, is saturated with racial slurs. This morning the bulletin boards in “The Center for Student Involvement” informed the campus this space is NOT for us . Collis is intended to be a home base for all student activities, however is a site of violence.
This campus is toxic.
Our goal is to illuminate the severity of the violence people of color face on this campus. In not challenging this oppression against our bodies, instead reproducing this narrative is actively partaking in this violence. Silencing our narratives. If we didn’t take down the display we would be reproducing a violent narrative that works to silence us in masses.
People are tired. People of color are tired of being made inferior to their peers. We are tired of conservative rhetoric reproducing the same racial stereotypes that have positioned our bodies in a violent, inhumane fashion since slavery.
We have reclaimed the board. We are reclaiming our space, in Collis, in Class, and on this Campus. We have proclaimed “Black Lives Matter”—we do in fact matter, and we are here.
Fuck your comfort, there is no such thing as neutral existence. Sitting in the library with your headphones in, intensifies this violence against people of color, muting the voices of the movement, the cries of your peers, and the history of inequality. Posting Blue Lives Matter reproduces the idea that All lives matter, again intensifying the violence against people of color. Invalidating individual realities.
We occupy this space, in front of the bulletin board, to guarantee our presence at this institution. Reposting Blue Lives Matter reproduces this violent narrative against people of color, by silencing us. We will not be silenced.
We have cried, but we will persevere regardless of the complacent conservative faction on campus, we will be okay. We need to be okay, so we can graduate from this institution with a Dartmouth degree. Face it that’s why we came here, and at the end of the day we still are here—at Dartmouth, in the Ivy League, in college, in this nation. We aren’t going anywhere.
It is your turn, stand in solidarity with us. Do not allow the cries of your peers, your friends be silenced.
Peace, Love, Solidarity,
Existence is Resistance
All of which amounts to “we’re right, they’re wrong, therefore our rights are better than their rights.” As Turley succinctly states, the contention is “absurd.” But you already realize this, so there’s no reason to beat this to death.
But while it seems so utterly obvious in this situation that the argument that one side is entitled to silence the other because it claims the other silences it is absurd, this is hardly the first time, or the first battle, where this absurd and irrational argument has been used. And yet, it’s been accepted as sound in other battles.
Like what, you ask? Like the cyber civil rights argument, that men’s voices silence women’s voices such that women should be entitled to censor men because their mean speech hurts women’s feelings so much that they are reluctant to speak. Just as the contention is unsound here, it’s always been unsound and will always be unsound. It’s no more rational when it’s your identitarian group at stake than when it’s some Dartmouth students.
And yet, the argument that a self-proclaimed marginalized group is entitled to censor, to silence, speech with which is disagrees not only persists, but enjoys widespread support in certain quarters. Whether it’s students at an elite Ivy League college, or women on the internet, the argument is the same. And fails for the same reason. Even if you think it’s different when it’s your hurt feelings involved rather than some other group’s hurt feelings.