Tag Archives: Protest

Editorial: We Tell the Truth When No One Else Will

A recent editorial in The Student Life (TSL) criticized a Claremont Independent article because they thought it opted “for sensationalism over accuracy and impartiality.” Our article’s title pretty much summed up the story: “Black Women Protest Campus Party Because Non-Black Women Are Invited.” TSL notes that the event “attracted controversy due to confusion over whether the even [sic] was open to all women of color or only black women.” In other words, there was no inaccuracy or bias in the Independent’s version of the story. And yet, TSL claims our article “demonstrates no effort to understand the underlying issues behind the controversy or the opinions of the community members affected.” The reality is that we build our news stories from quotes, and allow our sources to tell the story as accurately and impartially as possible rather than trying to provide our own commentary or insight. Simply put, our style of reporting lets the facts speak for themselves. Unfortunately for our radically liberal peers, the facts consistently reveal some serious problems on our campuses.

Anyone who has followed the Independent this year knows that we go to school at one of the most racist and bigoted places in America—but not in the way progressives would like you to think. On multiple occasions, white students (and recently, even non-black students of color) have been excluded from on-campus events solely based on their race. Conservative students of color are bullied because progressive groupthink leads minority students to view any political dissidents as traitors or sellouts to their race. What’s more, this bullying is widely viewed as acceptable by the same progressives who think that any viewpoints aside from their own are offensive. All the lessons on racial equality and acceptance that progressive students supposedly abide by are thrown out the window when dealing with “shady people of color,” a fancy name for nonwhite students who hold different opinions than they do. Pitzer College’s recently appointed Communications Secretary called for a ban on the Claremont Independent and asked, “Why not ban Steven Glick from even writing all together [sic],” whatever that’s supposed to mean. It’s no surprise that students act in this manner, since administrators openly endorse this sort of behavior. Yet, if you listen to the rhetoric coming from most students at the 5Cs, you’d have the story backwards and believe that white conservative students are the ones perpetuating racism against students of color on campus.

The reason our stories are so much more successful than those of any other 5C publication is that we are the only paper that actually reports on what life is like in Claremont. Rather than pushing some speculative narrative about how upper-middle class, white, cisgender STEM majors are trying to oppress or silence their fellow students, we report on direct actions taken by student government officials, professors, and administrators to punish those who do not agree with them. We report on issues that the TSL staff doesn’t consider newsworthy, and most of the time they are the ones who feel compelled to respond to us.

Many of our detractors complain about our use of social media and emails to the student body to obtain information, but the information presented in those outlets is exactly what makes our stories so accurate. People are more honest when they don’t think anyone is listening, and the message someone sends to a large audience (such as all students at Pitzer College) always provides a better picture of the ideas they wish to project than a quote given to a single writer representing the Independent.

The Independent serves many purposes on our campuses: we provide a place for students to express right-leaning or alternative opinions, we inspire dialogue regarding controversial events, and we keep students informed about all of the events TSL is too politically correct to write about. But perhaps most importantly, we let the rest of the world know what is happening in Claremont. National media outlets routinely pick up our articles because of the fact that we share the most interesting stories. Every article we write provides clear evidence exposing our peers for what they are: censorious, bigoted, oversensitive bullies. And the country is taking notice.

 

Steven Glick, Editor-in-Chief

Taylor Schmitt, Publisher

Jose Ruiz, Managing Editor

Why I Haven’t Enjoyed Claremont

When I came to Claremont, I hoped to find a loving community and an extended family. Unfortunately, what I found instead is an environment in which professing a commitment to social activism is often more important to my fellow students than actually connecting with the people around them. Many of my progressive classmates concern themselves with berating their peers for their ostensible insensitivity or privilege, rather than with expressing sensitivity to each other.

I have a message for these students: Expecting others to accept your conception of morality—one in which tolerance and acceptance are supposedly paramount—while treating dissenters with disdain is hypocrisy at its finest. You are trying to show people how to better society, which is admirable, but you have forgotten that a better society must start with ourselves. Society is not some vague entity – it is all around us in our dorms, in our classes, and in our libraries. If we are to demand that others embrace certain ideals, we are obligated to take on these same ideals ourselves and live them out as fully as possible.

When we willfully ignore this obligation, however, our community suffers. Deep and lasting relationships are no longer possible; instead, our relationships depend upon whether or not we agree with each other ideologically. When activism becomes more important than establishing sincere, genuine connections with people from different ideological backgrounds, no reasons remain for listening to those who cannot help our political goals. We thus become indignant of even respectful dissent, blinded by a sense of moral superiority that deems any disagreement a moral violation. In this way, we dehumanize each other based on ideology and create a highly judgmental culture that absolves us from needing to treat each other with respect and or consider alternative perspectives.

This last point is what most upsets me about the Claremont community. Students encourage each other to believe that highlighting the immorality of others is of far greater importance than actually practicing the values which they claim a person must support, accept, and live by in order to be morally good.  How can we improve ourselves if we see only good in ourselves and our opinions and only evil in those who deviate from our worldview? How can we become better people if we rarely place ourselves in a position to contemplate our wrongs? The fact is that no one is perfect, consistent, or correct all of the time, and rather than becoming indignant and aggressive when faced with dissent, students should do better for the community and for themselves by showing each other sincere kindness and understanding.

Activism should not strangle our relationships or limit the compassion we show to others.  If it does, the activism which truly matters—the radical task of loving and accepting one another in spite of our differences—will be left behind, and we will have lost sight of what’s truly important.

28 Scripps Professors Will Protest Madeleine Albright’s Commencement Speech

Yesterday’s issue of The Student Life contained an open letter, signed by twenty-eight Scripps faculty members, criticizing the selection of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to deliver the commencement speech at Scripps College this May.

“As concerned Scripps faculty members, we are outraged at the selection of Madeleine Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker and will not participate in this year’s graduation ceremony,” the professors write. “Our opposition to her speaking at commencement, however, has to do with her record during her service as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State.”

The professors condemn Albright for supporting sanctions on Iraq, for removing UN troops from Rwanda (Albright has stated, “My deepest regret from my years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes), and for advocating for the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia.

The letter adds that, “As a member of the Clinton administration, Albright was crucial in the crafting of ‘Plan Colombia,’ which funneled billions of dollars in aid to the country, 80 percent of which took the form of military aid to security forces, during a time when those forces were linked to right-wing paramilitary organizations.”

The faculty members also oppose having Albright speak at graduation because they don’t feel she’s done enough over the course of her career that is in ideological accordance with the demands Scripps students came up with last semester to encourage “unlearning.”

“The selection of Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker runs counter to the spirit of student activism during fall 2015, which resulted in the demand to address institutional racism, among other forms of barred access,” the professors write. “As a women’s liberal arts college, we should promote the advancement of women and transgender peoples broadly and not simply emulate and celebrate those individuals who participate in U.S. state power and wield its violence. Representing the category of ‘woman’ in this way evacuates feminism of its anti-racist, anti-paternalistic, and anti-imperialist potential to address those lives that are systematically made vulnerable to sickness and death.”

The professors conclude their email by demanding they be included in the commencement speaker selection process rather than leaving that decision up to students. “With respect to the process for commencement speaker selection, it is our understanding that the selection is currently left in the hands of the senior class leadership with no input from faculty or other community members,” the letter states. “Because the commencement speaker is representative not only of the current senior class but also of the broader Scripps community, the process of selection should be reconsidered to better reflect Scripps values and commitments. In consideration of Scripps values and of our commitments to students and the institution, we will not be walking in graduation this year in protest of Albright’s presence.”

Scripps Dean: Writing #Trump2016 is ‘Harassment,’ ‘Intimidation’

Last week, Scripps College’s Student Body President, Minjoo Kim, sent an email to the Scripps community describing a “racist incident” that occurred on campus. “A Mexican-American Scripps student woke up to find her whiteboard vandalized with the phrase: ‘#trump2016’.” A similar incident occurred at Emory University where students felt frightened and disturbed after pro-Donald Trump chalkings appeared on campus with the phrase “#trump2016.”

“This racist act is completely unacceptable. Regardless of your political party, this intentional violence committed directly to a student of color proves to be another testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses,” the email continues. “Campus Safety has been notified and we hope to find the person responsible so they can be held accountable for their actions.”

“This is not the inclusive, safe, and welcoming community that we have been striving so hard to create,” notes Kim. “Actions and words have consequences. Think before you act.”

Dean Charlotte Johnson also addressed the incident with a school-wide email.

“Scripps respects the First Amendment rights of its community members, and students who wish to advocate for a political candidate may certainly do so pursuant to all relevant policies and procedures,” Johnson writes. “However, while it is true that under most circumstances the mere iteration of a presidential candidate’s name would not be regarded as a form of harassment or intimidation, the circumstances here are unique.”

She further describes the “circumstances” by stating, “Given that the Scripps incident targeted a Mexican-American, who was the only student in her residence hall to discover the message on her door, the negative reaction registered by many members of the community is understandable and far from extreme. As all who have experienced can confirm, racist acts and intimidation are not always overt. But, for their targets such acts are always disconcerting.”

Dean Johnson ends her email by declaring, “We are all responsible for ensuring the Scripps community is a safe place for everyone.”

The Scripps Guide to Student Life makes no mention of any policies pertaining to whiteboards. Students in all dorms are given public whiteboards placed outside or on their doors, and many leave markers for other students to write on their board with.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Scripps Students, Faculty: Protest Madeleine Albright Because She is a ‘White Feminist’

Recently, the Office of the President at Scripps College sent out an email informing the student body that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be the commencement speaker this spring. “We proudly welcome Dr. Albright to Scripps College and eagerly anticipate a glimpse of the person ‘behind the position’ in her history-making role as America’s first female Secretary of State.”

Several students were upset by the decision to invite Dr. Albright to speak at graduation. An article in The Student Life (TSL) described Albright as a “white feminist and repeated genocide enabler” because she removed UN peacekeepers and U.S. troops from Rwanda and supported military intervention in the Balkans.

Many other students were concerned by the fact that Albright is white, and expressed their sentiments on social media. “2012 and like 2008 appeared to be people of color. but also SO MANY white women,” a student stated.

“*Just out of curiosity* does anyone know how many POC we’ve had as guest commencement speakers at Scripps? 2…3?” asked another student. “real question. real problem,” responded a student who previously stated that she was “fulfilling life dreams” when she saw white feminist Nancy Pelosi speak at Scripps in February.

One student even called for a protest of the event. “With Madeline [sic] Albright being our commencement speaker (and a war criminal and a white feminist) I know some of our professors are refusing to be on stage. I was wondering if any of the students were planning a protest or perhaps some sort of show of disagreement with Albright and what she stands for?”

Not all students were angry that Albright was invited to give the commencement speech. “Having the opportunity to listen to Madeleine Albright speak during commencement is something graduating students, and Scripps students in general, should be appreciative of,” Olivia Wu (SC ’19) told the Claremont Independent. “Seeing negative reactions about her visit just because of her race is honestly ridiculous when considering her achievements.”

Scripps students did not appear to protest when Angela Davis, a leader of the Communist Party USA and member of the Black Panther Party—who was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list for murder and kidnapping—spoke on campus earlier this year. The event, titled “Radical Acts: A Conversation with Angela Davis” described Davis as “a one-time Communist party candidate and champion for prison reform” who is “an outspoken advocate for the oppressed and exploited, writing on black liberation, prison abolition, the intersections of race, gender, and class, and international solidarity with Palestine.”

Scripps’ commencement will take place at the Elm Tree Lawn on Saturday, May 14.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Scripps Students Demand Required Anti-Oppression Training “To Ensure their Unlearning Process is Continuous”

Yesterday, students from Scripps College issued a list of demands to the school administration. “As a collective of students who recognize movements here, and globally, we are calling upon increased action to combat institutional racism and oppression,” the students write. “Together, we have written the following list of proposed actions with the faith that our institution, Scripps College, will honor its commitment to institutional change that centers diversity and inclusivity.”

We Demand: The appointment of a Vice President of Institutional Diversity who will supervise and assess the diversity and inclusion efforts in all Staff, Faculty, Administration, and Student realms of the college,” the list begins. “We demand that students are able to help shape what this position will include, as well as be voting members on the hiring committee. We demand that the Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion become a standing committee.” The students feel that the creation of this position “is one of the first steps in establishing an institution of checks and balances and accountability for the college on issues of diversity and inclusion.”

The students also demand that the Sustained Dialogues Initiative end. “Sustained Dialogue Campus Network methods solely depend on utilizing marginalized student experience to catalyze discussions even at the risk of retraumatizing minority participants,” they write. “In addition to this, in trainings focused on gaining facilitation skills, all participants are certified as discussion facilitators despite having openly proven themselves to be complicit in racism, classism, ableism and other modes of oppression. This indiscriminate certification process is just one example of the ways that Sustained Dialogues fails to protect, support, and center students of color.”

Further, the list calls for “mandatory Anti-Oppression Trainings” for faculty, staff, and students. The students propose that their classmates should not be able to register for classes each semester unless they attend anti-oppression training “to ensure their unlearning process is continuous.”

“Frameworks of the occasional, optional trainings offered to faculty, administration, staff and students to promote inclusion are not focused on explicitly naming and addressing facets of oppression and the intersections between them (including, but not limited to: racism, classism, ableism, homophobia etc),” the students state. “Scripps has a history of using its seemingly ‘progressive and paradisiacal’ nature to avoid addressing, naming, and putting systems in place so that our community can begin to explicitly unlearn the ways in which we are complicit in structural and interpersonal violence.”

Additionally, the list of demands includes a request for modifications to Scripps’ CORE curriculum. “CORE 1 has continually failed to aptly educate Scripps students on the topics of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender,” the students write. “Students should be learning about modern manifestations of systemic violence including but not limited to: gentrification, police brutality, military industrial complex, xenophobia, immigration, prison industrial complex, food deserts, and sexual assault on college campuses.”

The students also demand “the hiring of an on-campus therapist experienced in healing and processing racial based trauma,” as well as “A policy of accommodations for students that experience racial-based trauma, equal to accommodations given to disabled students.”

“Racially traumatized students are put in unsafe spaces,” the students write. “Institutional racialized violence creates no room for students to have healing time for their race-based trauma. These students are forced to encounter the same perpetrators and discriminators—who may be fellow peers, faculty, and administration—thus retraumatizing these students as they are in hostile environments (ie. residential halls, classrooms, dining commons).”

The list also calls for “the removal of SAT/ACT/Standardized Testing from the admissions process” because “SATs/ACTs are strongly biased against low-income students and students of color, at a time when diversity is critical to our mission statement and campus climate.” The students state, “Removing the SAT/ACT requirement for admission makes Scripps more accessible to populations who would otherwise be isolated from applying.”

In addition, the students demand “The establishment of an intercollegiate department for Indigenous Studies and Disability Studies, respectively.” The students note, “Course curriculum that reflects diverse lived experiences is important in boosting retention rates and creating individuals with inclusive excellence.”

The students also call for “increased scholarship and support” for illegal immigrants due to the fact that “California has one of the largest undocumented populations and Scripps should be responsive to the demands in the immediate geographical community by supporting undocumented/DACAmented students pursuing higher education.”

“Every other college in the consortium has at least one undocumented/DACAmented student and have explicit policies for admitting undocumented/DACAmented students,” the students write. “Scripps should follow suit and implement an official policy to ensure that undocumented/DACAmented students are able to attend and succeed at Scripps to resist subjugation for people who cannot obtain legal citizenship.”

The list of demands closes with a call for the abolishment of the 7C Demonstration policy. “We Demand: A repeal of the 7C Demonstration policy in all of its forms and a statement that acknowledges the institutional violence of endorsing the policy at all,” the students write. “Demonstrations are by nature disruptive, so these policies discourage students from protesting at all with the threat of both police force and academic consequences. When considering which students are more likely to protest or need to protest, these policies disproportionately target students of color and marginalized students.”

Scripps Associated Students (SAS) will hold an open forum to discuss these demands at the Motley on December 1.

CMC Students Feel Marginalized, Demand Resources and Resignations

Yesterday afternoon, a student demonstration took place at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), where students of marginalized identities demanded administrative officials accommodate their specialized needs on campus. Their demands include a permanent resource center; the immediate creation of two diversity positions for student affairs and faculty; and a general education requirement for ethnic, racial, and sexuality theory; along with over a dozen other demands listed in their original letter to President Hiram Chodosh sent earlier this year. The demonstration’s organizers include the CMCers of Color, the Brothers and Sisters Alliance (BSA), Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Asian Pacific American Mentors (APAM), and GenU.

At the demonstration, students vocalized their demands, emphasizing that they want everything done on their own terms. “We don’t want a center for free speech meant to educate white students,” one protestor asserted. “We want a center that supports marginalized students first and foremost.” When students demanded that President Chodosh commit to giving them a temporary and eventually permanent space on campus, he initially said that he could not commit to a temporary space, but is working on a permanent space at this time. But after about 5 minutes of students speaking out against him, President Chodosh said he would love to transform the Hub, CMC’s student food store and central lounge, to provide them with a temporary space. In a swift, executive decision, CMC Student Body President Will Su dedicated part of the student government office as a temporary space, ordering the administration to give these students a permanent space immediately.

“To the administration as a whole, we require greater diversity in our faculty and staff,” stated the protest leader. “The need for such programs to educate the student body is eminent [sic] by the numerous microaggressions felt by students of color.” Students of color called out racially-insensitive professors for making them feel unsafe. “We want mandatory and periodic racial sensitivity trainings for all professors,” one protestor stated. “How are students supposed to learn in the classroom when they don’t even feel safe? When their own professors, someone who is supposed to be a mentor to them, a teacher, doesn’t even respect their identities? We want more diverse course offerings for critical race theory, community engagement, and social justice issues.”

The Dean of Students, and specifically Dean Mary Spellman, faced the brunt of the complaints. In the past few days, an “offensive” email sent by Dean Spellman was widely circulated on Facebook and prompted calls for her resignation. In the email, Dean Spellman responded to an article that voiced concerns by a student of color, stating that she wants to better serve students “who don’t fit our CMC mold.” Her comment outraged several students of color, and the email was cited as another example of institutional racism at CMC. Since then, students have demanded that Dean Spellman resign from her position, with a few students on a hunger strike that won’t end until she does so. Dean Spellman apologized multiple times over email and at the demonstration for her “poorly worded” statement, but students still demand that she resign.

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One of the other main catalysts for the demonstration was a photo of four CMC students from Halloween, where two white students dressed in stereotypical Mexican clothing and were condemned for cultural appropriation. A student of color wrote the original post: “For anyone who ever tries to invalidate the experiences of POC [people of color] at the Claremont Colleges, here is a reminder of why we feel the way we do. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting, don’t tell me I’m being too sensitive. My voice will not be silenced.” The post was also widely circulated on Facebook over the weekend and prompted several other students of color to speak out. Students condemned CMC’s junior class president, who was in the photo holding the sign that said “Sorry” (dressed as a Justin Bieber back-up dancer), for being complicit in cultural appropriation and demanded her resignation.

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The junior class president resigned on November 10 in an email, apologizing for being a bystander in the situation. “I promise to speak up and act out when I witness offensive and harmful behaviors in our community,” she wrote. “I promise that I won’t let my fears get in the way of standing up for something that is right, and something that continues to be a necessary dialogue here at the Colleges. Most importantly, I promise to be more conscientious of what I say and do and truly think about the parties that can be affected.”

The demonstration yesterday afternoon was preceded by a campus-wide letter that the groups sent out that morning. The letter explained the ways in which the administration has failed to address their concerns in the past. Students of marginalized identities described their campus experience with words like “misunderstood,” “intimidated,” “don’t belong,” “fragmented,” “excluded,” “daunting,” “conflicted,” “isolated,” and “scared.”

Students reported that professors “constantly mistake them for another student of color in class” which shows that “teachers characterize and distinguish them by their skin color and not by their personhood.” Additionally, students complained that CMC’s Crime and Public Policy course “does not offer readings with perspectives of people of color” and that the Civil War history simulation about the pros and cons of slavery is “extremely insensitive” and “hurtful.” CMC’s economics professors were targeted for having a “clear bias” against people from low-income backgrounds. Students reported that these professors used terms like “Welfare Queen” and had chastised poor people in their classes. They also criticized a new faculty member for “asking for examples of microaggressions,” which, to them, reflected “the lack of comprehensive training on racial sensitivity” among CMC’s faculty.

Students also complained about the Dean of Students. They stated that the Dean of Students’ First Year Guide and Resident Assistant training schedules included visits to the offices of Black Student Affairs and Chicano Latino Student Affairs, but not to the Asian American Resource Center. Apparently, the Deans’ exclusion of this visit “perpetuated the incorrect and problematic belief that Asian American students do not suffer from discrimination and racism and thus do not need resources.” Students then reported instances of when the Dean of Students dismissed complaints about LGBTQ-related offenses, accusing them of providing “inadequate resources” to change campus climate or support hurt students.

After listing over twenty complaints, the letter states, “We ask that the administration not get lost in the details of these events and in assigning guilt, but rather take responsibility as a whole for these actions and move forward with supporting students of marginalized identities.”

“For those administrators and professors who have not been involved in the efforts to create a resource center, you are not absolved of contributing to the discrimination and indifference that marginalized students have faced at CMC,” the letter continues. “Silence is oppression. We expect you to reflect on our proposals and implement swift and impactful changes to make your departments more inclusive, supportive, and accessible to students of marginalized identities.”

The letter ends, “To the department heads receiving this letter: if you stand in solidarity with us, please forward this to all the faculty in your department. We ask you to hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to better support marginalized students and to affirm our efforts and need for space.” This week, several classes have been cancelled, shortened, or used as discussion periods, and assignment deadlines have been extended.

Black Lives Matter: A Downward Spiral

In early August, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders arrived in Seattle to speak at a rally celebrating the 80th birthday of Social Security. Sanders was barely able to begin before two women climbed on stage, threatening to “shut the event down.” One of the protestors—both of whom are associated with the Black Lives Matter movement—repeatedly screamed “let her [the other protester] on the mic,” as the senator himself slipped quietly into the background. The rally’s organizer then addressed the crowd saying he would try to be reasonable and let the protesters speak after Senator Sanders. This enraged the protesters, who started shaking the podium, shoving the organizer, and screaming—unaware of the irony—“we are being reasonable!” The organizer was unwilling to endure any more abuse and ceded control of the microphone. The two protesters proceeded to call the crowd “white supremacist liberal[s]” and the city of Seattle racist. If you haven’t seen the video, it is on YouTube. Those of you who have been around toddlers throwing a tantrum will find the behavior of the protestors eerily familiar.

When working as a part of a grassroots movement like Black Lives Matter, there are certain things you cannot do if you want to be successful. The first of these things is basing your movement on—or defending it with—misleading or fabricated information. The second is alienating people, particularly those who are most likely to support you. The first is actually a subset of the second, but is important enough with respect to Black Lives Matter that it deserves to be touched on separately.  

The poster child for Black Lives Matter’s present incarnation was Michael Brown. However, when all of the facts pertaining to the case came to light, it became obvious that the shooting of Michael Brown was in self-defense. The movement’s rallying cry—“Hands up, don’t shoot!”—turned out to be a completely inaccurate representation of what actually happened in Ferguson last summer.

To the leaders of the movement, however, these facts were irrelevant. As more and more alleged murders of black civilians by white police officers became headlines, it seemed like just a matter of time before mitigating circumstances bubbled to the surface as well—sometimes supporting claims of police brutality but calling into question racism as a motivating factor, such as the case of Freddie Gray, where 3 of the 6 officers indicted in the case were black. This cast doubt onto the narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Those at the forefront of the movement also seem reluctant to mention that in the cases where the evidence actually supported police brutality—such as the cases of Walter Scott and Freddie Gray—the police were indicted on several serious charges, ranging from assault to manslaughter to murder. Instead, Black Lives Matter chooses to focus on the cases where the evidence is insufficient for indictment, touting them as evidence of the systematic murder of black people by white police officers.

Many people who were initially on the fence about Black Lives Matter were seriously turned against the movement after repeatedly seeing protestors claim one thing while the evidence showed the opposite. Though many in the movement seem to feel that the evidence doesn’t matter, the reality is that to most people who are undecided on the issue, it is of paramount importance. Black Lives Matter is turning its potential allies into its opposition by embellishing and sometimes blatantly fabricating its claims.

Bernie Sanders’ track record with regard to civil rights puts that of all the other candidates in the 2016 election—and, frankly, most of the protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter—to shame. He was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality. He was arrested for his participation in protests against segregated campus housing as a student at the University of Chicago, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Say whatever you want about Bernie Sanders, but it is difficult to argue that he is anything but a sincere and devoted champion of civil rights for African-Americans.

Had the two protesters chosen to approach the event’s organizers (or Senator Sanders himself) in a respectful manner, it is clear from the video that the organizers would have been willing to let them speak. The crowd would almost certainly have been receptive to their message. After all, the circle of people who attend a speech by Bernie Sanders and the circle of people who would support the Black Lives Matter overlap quite a bit. Instead, by choosing to rudely interrupt Senator Sanders, verbally (as well as physically) assault the organizer of the event, and accuse the crowd of being racist, the two “activists” managed only to anger those who could have been their allies, as evidenced by the angry response of the crowd.

Moreover, their actions served to even further alienate those who were on the fence about their movement. When people see two young activists harassing and interrupting a—let’s be honest—fairly feeble looking old man, particularly when that old man has been fighting for the rights of African-Americans since before those protesters were born, it does nothing to win them over to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was, in essence, the worst public relations stunt the group could have planned.

Despite the fact that the actions of protesters such as those who interrupted Senator Sanders seem to suggest that making friends and drawing people into their movement is of little concern, this is a poor strategy for a grassroots movement to use. If Black Lives Matter is to be successful, it needs to evolve from a niche group into a serious, mainstream movement, and it must do so soon. Movements that are viewed as fringe and do nothing to incorporate themselves into the mainstream tend to fizzle out (e.g. Occupy Wall Street) with few successes to hang their hat on.

Articles like this one may be dismissed as “tone-policing” (especially when coming from an openly white person like myself) by those within the Black Lives Matter movement. However, it is at Black Lives Matter’s own peril that they ignore what their detractors say. Protesters like the ones who interrupted Senator Sanders certainly have a right to free speech, but they seem to be under the mistaken impression that they also have a right to be listened to. You cannot force people to hear what you have to say; if what you have to say is worth hearing, people will choose to listen. If they do not, perhaps you need to be honest with yourself about why that is. Though it may feel cathartic to shut people down and meet resistance and even questioning with anger—a strategy that suggests you are unable to adequately address criticism of your movement—it will make enemies of those on the fence and cause those who might have been your allies to think twice, ultimately driving your movement into the ground.

Image Source: Seattle Met