For a few minutes, people paid some attention to the murder of a Barnard freshman, Tessa Majors, in a New York City park. Well, less about her murder than the black teen arrested for it, and whether his confession was good enough as he only had a relative present and not a lawyer.
There was a faint whiff of the Central Park Five about the scenario, and that was reminiscent of a television dramatic presentation that we confused with a documentary, which is much more interesting than some pretty white girl getting murdered. Then . . . SQUIRREL.
is, inter alia, a professor at Barnard, and for a brief and shining moment, I thought she remembered Tessa Majors. As my twitter feed obsessed over international issues and activists outraged that bail reform was under attack by their best-yesterday friends, I wondered if anybody remembered Tess Majors. And there it was, an op-ed in the Times that wasn’t about the awfulness of Trump, but Tessa Majors. It was written by Barnard prof Boylan, and it said so in the headline,
Tessa Majors and the Worst Thing I Ever Heard
So it wasn’t just me? Someone else remembered?
I wasn’t expecting to get any messages on my answering machine at Barnard College on Christmas Day. But there was one. So I hit play, thinking it might be greetings from an old friend, or even a stranger, wishing to share the good will of the season.
What I heard instead was a racist message from a white supremacist group in Idaho, using the incomprehensibly tragic death of a first-year Barnard student, Tessa Majors, as an occasion to promote hatred toward African-Americans. She had been fatally stabbed during a mugging on Dec. 11, not far from campus. It was one of the most awful things I’ve ever heard.
What was “one of the most awful things” Boylan “ever heard”? Not that Tessa Majors was murdered, but that she, Boylan, had to hear this message on her answering machine. Sure, this frosh was dead, but this was about Boylan’s suffering.
I did not know Ms. Majors, but I’m proud to be a teacher at Barnard. It will take a long time for our community to heal; in some ways, we never will.
Heal? Nobody murdered your community. It was Tessa Majors, the person you don’t know, who was murdered. Oh wait, maybe you’re not talking about Majors at all, but the trauma of the message on your answering machine.
When I got the racist robocall, I deleted it instantly. My hope was to erase it from my memory, from my life, from the world I live in.
But I should have known it’s never that easy. I can still hear that man’s voice. The more I try to forget it, the more it haunts me.
Since then, I’ve been trying to understand, without much success, what the right response to hate should be. It’s not the first time I’ve heard voices like this, or wrestled with this question.
It was a robocall? And you deleted it instantly, so the sum total of your story is that you got a robocall from a white supremacist group (for which we accept your word that it happened, because you deleted it instantly), and yet it didn’t make you think about Tessa Majors at all, but about you, your feelings, how it haunts you.
Despite a headline that mentions the name “Tessa Majors,” and a few dropped song lyrics that people who knew her sang which Boylan can adopt for her own benefit, this was a mindless paean to self-indulgent narcissism. Tessa Majors was murdered, so let’s discuss what a hateful phone call meant to Boylan’s feelings.
It would be bad enough to point out that this op-ed was deemed worthy of real estate in the New York Times at a time when there are so very many serious issues at risk, and so many that rose to the top of the pile for a moment until they disappeared, awaiting a heartbreaking made-for-TV movie to bring them back a few years from now.
But there is another aspect to the murder of Tessa Majors that is reminiscent of the Central Park Jogger case that held the city captive for years, but is shockingly different this time. When last it happened, it was huge news. This time, it was a ripple for a day, and then poof. The rape and near-murder of a 28-year-old white woman, Trisha Meili, struck a chord because it reflected a possibility that could happen to anyone. Well, anyone who ventured into a New York City park at night.
Tessa Majors had completed her first semester at Barnard, a pretty 18-year-old white woman with her entire life ahead of her, filled with possibilities, until it was snuffed out when a group of young black males decided to kill her.
Speaking to investigators last month, the 13-year-old laid out in chilling detail how he and two 14-year-old male friends had tried to mug Ms. Majors, 18, a first-year Barnard student, as she passed through a Harlem park one evening last month, according to previous testimony by two police detectives.
This would have been huge news at one time, and yet today, there is barely a mention of it. Except for Jennifer Finney Boylan. And she only mentions Majors as an excuse to write about herself and her feelings, which is the only use of a co-ed murdered in a park by some black kids in the current climate.