The following university-wide email was sent on Wednesday morning.
Subject: Message from Prezbo re: BLM
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
I am writing as both a personal gentrifier and an institutional one. Like the rest of white America who is just now learning about anti-Black racism, I have been pondering current events (read: the most neutral word I could choose for protests sparred by murder) with an increasing astonishment that the police don’t actually protect everyone. I am becoming anguished by the anguish I am spectating and becoming alarmed by the shredding of a social contract that benefits my ruling class.
Until last Friday, I never thought that I could forget that we are enduring a pandemic, much less did I know that Black communities like the one Columbia is pushing ever-farther north are most affected. To further this point, I will reference the murder of citizen George Floyd and other victims of police violence without noting that many Black people can’t exercise their rights as citizens because they are disenfranchised from voting. Floyd’s murder drew back the curtain on centuries of discrimination against Black people, which was quite startling to me because I prefer to run the Emerald City from behind a nice, thick velvet curtain, myself.
My hope for a renewed sense of national purpose that is different enough to pacify the masses than the current national purpose is that we find one. And quickly. We are at a point in our history when political leadership is openly racist enough for me to comment on, and this leadership is exposing the culture of white supremacy that has taken years to rebrand as “the way things are.” My concerns here are not partisan but the bare minimum that I can express to placate the student body.
Like so many others here, I have chosen to dedicate my life to tokenizing minority groups and playing devil’s advocate in liberal echo chambers (my beloved Columbia, specifically). What we are seeing today—which includes an unfounded attack on the University by a president who is in no way known for his vitriolic and racist remarks—is at the opposite end of the spectrum. The spectrum, that is, that spans from producing Roy Cohn as an alumni to tweeting open season on protesters. If this were a single incident, that would be one thing, but now we are descending into authoritarianism in a way that is finally affecting upper-class Americans.
In the face of all of this, I’ll say some nice things about how I empathize with those in our community who are feeling scared like I am. I will not offer specific empathy to Black students or to others most affected, because when one Columbia student summers in Turks and Caicos, we all feel the warm breeze. Universities are not perfect, so we will not accept our share of responsibility and #DivergeFromNYPD like you all are asking. Instead, we will continue to teach a mostly white Core Curriculum like the Founding Fathers would have wanted. We will continue to provide society with a new generation of leaders who must seek out anti-racist understanding themselves to live by, and fight for, the values of respect for reason, the love of anti-racist ideas, and the wish to use these qualities to dismantle the capitalist state.
Peace Out from my Riot-Proof Mansion,