To the Editor:
A fellow NCHS graduate, Griffin Hall ’16, recently published a rabid rejoinder to the proposals made by an alumni group at a Board of Education meeting on June 15. In doing so, however, he unwittingly presented a perfect example of why our group’s proposal is so desperately needed.
Mr. Hall’s assertion that he would “cringe to imagine…discussions in which the only acceptable conclusion is when white teenagers…finally give in and accept their responsibility as ‘oppressors’ ” reflects unwillingness among many individuals to acknowledge their complicity in systemic racism. In stark contrast to Mr. Hall’s Orwellian depiction, however, our goal is not to foster indoctrination but awareness of the ways in which white people and even non-black minorities inadvertently contribute to systemic racism. Willfully choosing to ignore this and resisting the “indoctrination” of exposure to multiple perspectives reduce racism no more than closing one’s eyes makes a brick wall less solid.
Mr. Hall proceeds to assert that “one could mistakenly think that Derek Chauvin…were himself an NCHS grad, and we New Canaanites the guilty incubators of his crimes.” Mr. Hall further asserts that “Black Lives Matter is a movement about ending police brutality and racial profiling, not a retroactive crusade against sheltered white childhoods.”
What Mr. Hall fails to acknowledge, however, is that Derek Chauvin did not become a murderer as a result of congenital psychopathy. Rather, the blatant disregard for life Chauvin demonstrated on May 25 is a single manifestation of a culture that has consistently devalued Black lives for 400 years. Ignorance of the fruits of those 400 years fuels not only police brutality, but also beliefs like those of Mr. Hall that the remainder of America’s institutions are blameless when in fact they have been marshaled for brutality against black folks for as long as they have existed. “Sheltered white childhoods” beget citizens who are clueless about the struggles faced by their fellow Americans and consequently helpless to enact change, failing to prevent tragedies such as the high-profile murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd among countless others. It is precisely this cluelessness and helplessness that we are attempting to ameliorate through the amplification of minority perspectives with respect to faculty, curriculum, and programming.
Mr. Hall later makes the ludicrous assertion that intersectionality operates in such a way that “oppressed” voices carry greater weight than those of oppressors.” Such complaints call to mind the sentiment that when one is accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. In other words, oftentimes those of us who are used to our voices being elevated to the exclusion of minority perspectives feel deprived when we have to share the stage. This certainly seems to be the case for Mr. Hall.
Interestingly, Mr. Hall later states that he believes the town must make a concerted effort to hire more minority faculty and amplify minority experiences in New Canaan, the latter of which was a source of vehement objection only a few paragraphs earlier in Mr. Hall’s critique of intersectionality. In noting this inconsistency, I am further intrigued that the same alumni Mr. Hall is vituperating represent individuals who hold racial and ethnic minority identities. I am unsure which of the two perspectives more accurately represents Mr. Hall’s but I am cautiously optimistic that perhaps we agree on this much.