Race

URGENT: Olympia, WA students reportedly attacked by police for protesting teacher’s anti-Black statements

May 23, 2017

At Evergreen State College, a Day Of Absence was supposed to be an intentional day of caucusing to discuss intersectional issues organized by the school’s Director First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, Rashida N. Love. A normal practice on campus for students, teachers, and staff of color, Love sent a detailed email to staff and faculty alerting them of the upcoming event, its intentions, and sign-up information for those choosing to participate.

This year, the day-long event planned to discuss racism, equity, and inclusion and was set to take place on campus. But in response to her email, professor Bret Weinstein caught up in hurt white feelings and entitlement, believed the event to be a way to marginalize and silence white opinions instead.

In his email (pictured below), Weinstein chided that people needed to “put phenotype aside” and that “on a college campus, one’s right to speak–or to be–must never be based on skin color.”

Continuing, Weinstein wrote: “If there was interest in a public presentation and discussion of race through a scientific / evolutionary lens, I would be quite willing to organize such an event.” He believes that his experiences as a scientist qualifies him to be able speak on scientific matters and that people who experience racism their entire lives are not more qualified to speak about racism than someone who doesn’t.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Bret Weinstein’s response to Rashida N. Love’s Day Of Absence sign-up email

In a continued chain of email exchanges with other faculty members essentially calling him out, Weinstein tried to justify is anti-black attitude and, frankly, denials of race-based issues faced by POC in general, by detailing his European Jewish roots: “Many will recognize Weinstein as a German/Jewish name. My ancestors were all European Jews, primarily from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. European Jews like my ancestors have faced repeated waves of anti-Semitic persecution stretching back at least as far as the 3rd century B.C.E. The most recent wave was at its height a mere 25 years before my birth. The Nazis were then at the peak of their “final solution to the Jewish question.”

All of this in response to and used as justification for refusing to acknowledge the roles race (which he puts between quotes throughout) plays in the experiences of people who aren’t Jewish.

The email exchanges became public to the student body and prompted the Day Of Absence to become focused on Weinstein, anti-blackness in the classroom and student safety in that environment.

The students protesting at Evergreen State College reached out to AFROPUNK and their accounts of the incident were presented in a release prepared by Clarissa Magdich and Halla Warner. They provided the copy of the email shown above.

During the protest, Weinstein was confronted by the students and held accountable for his actions. Students describe “peppering” him with questions, but according to Twitter videos, tried to take turns providing insight and giving Weinstein opportunities to understand. Visibly frustrated, but unwilling to concede his racist position, Weinstein opted to call the police on the peaceful crowd, saying he was “cornered” by the group. Never mind that this was, essentially, a school sponsored day of actions and the fact that the contents of Weinstein’s emails were in fact pretty racist at worse, and contemptuous of POC at best.

After exiting the building where the initial protest took place, the chanting students report that they eventually met up with campus Officer Timothy O’dell and tried to debrief him on the situation. Students say O’dell attempted to push past the white protestors standing in front of their disabled and non-white peers and was soon assisted by police chief Stacy Brown. After a brief, non-violent exchange, students marched towards an on-campus location known as Red Square. Once many of the protestors had arrived at the Red Square, so had State Troopers and Olympia Police. Students say, there, law enforcement agents threatened them with mace and arrest.

Fearful from the disproportionate police response and their historic, well-documented abuses of POC and protestors, students retreated back to the library’s Trans & Queer Center/Unity Lounge. Many of the protestors took refuge in the building while white students kept protective watch to over the police until they eventual left the surrounding area.

Update: A student who wishes to remain anonymous informed us that late yesterday afternoon, students met with Evergreen State College President George Bridges and Vice President of Student Affairs Wendy Endress. Students made several demands with the administration, including the firing of Bret Weinstein and several other outwardly racist faculty members. Students plan to resume protests today (May 24th) at 1pm at the library.

Statement from the students:

“We come here as students against campus racism and against anti-blackness on campus, and we would like to reach out to students of color in the humanities as well as the sciences that we are here to support, and we want to dismantle anti-blackness campus-wide. We want to give some sense of solidarity and provide safety in and outside of classes.” #exposeevergreen

* Thank you to Samuel Saboia for bringing these events to our attention, and to the students who shared their accounts of the story with us.

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at erin@afropunk.com.

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