A college student who asked “Should White Boys Still Be Allowed to Talk?” in an opinion article for her college newspaper and was characterized online by some as racist wants to set the record straight, telling Yahoo Lifestyle, “I do not hate white people.”
Leda Fisher, a senior at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., published the piece Thursday in the student-run newspaper the Dickinsonian criticizing white male students for taking up space in underserved areas to validate narrow-minded opinions.
“When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase ‘do you agree?’ If so, your name is something like Jake, or Chad, or Alex, and you were taught that your voice is the most important in every room,” Fisher wrote in her opinion piece. “Somewhere along your academic journey, you decided your search for intellectual validation was more important than the actual exchange of information. Now how do you expect to actually learn anything?”
“American society tells men, but especially white men, that their opinions have merit and that their voice is valuable, but after four years of listening to white boys in college, I am not so convinced,” the American studies major wrote. “In my time at Dickinson I have listened to probably hundreds of white boys talk. It feels incessant. From classes and lectures, to the news and politics, there is an endless line of white boys waiting to share their opinions on the state of feminism in America, whether the LGBTQ+ population finally has enough rights, the merits of capitalism, etc. The list of what white boys think they are qualified to talk about is endless. Something very few of them seem to understand is that their (ill-informed, uncritical) opinions do not constitute truth. In fact, most often their opinions aren’t even original. White boys spout the narrative of dominant ideologies and pretend they’re hot takes instead of the same misleading garbage shoved down our throats by American institutions from birth.”
Fisher said she gets annoyed sitting in class listening to “a white boy explain his take on the Black experience in the Obama-era. Hey Brian, I’m an actual Black woman alive right now with a brain. In what world would your understanding of my life carry more weight than my understanding?”
She claimed marginalized people serve only to amuse white men, who “speak with the weight of every other white man who has spoken over a woman, erased the contributions of queer people from history, or denigrated ‘broken English’ as unintelligent.”
Posing the lead question again, Fisher answered, “In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no. Go find someone whose perspective has been buried or ignored and listen to them, raise up their voice. To all the Chrises, Ryans, Olivers, and Seans out there, I encourage you to critically examine where your viewpoints come from, read a text that challenges you without looking for reasons to dismiss it, and maybe try listening from now on.”
More than 350 commenters came down on Fisher in the piece, which was posted online. “The piece is poorly thought out, full of presumptions cast as fact (clearly the writer hasn’t taken any logic classes), and raging with stereotypes,” a commenter wrote. “You say of white boys ‘most often their opinions aren’t even original.’ None of your opinions here are original either. Ignorant people have held them forever.” A person named Ginger Jacoby shared a petition called “Expel Leda Fisher from Dickinson College,” which was signed by nearly 150 people by Tuesday afternoon.
Fisher told Yahoo Lifestyle that her article raised issues that affect students of color. “As to the hate sent my way, it is no match for the support I have received,” she said. “[Regarding claims I am racist], I will share the widely accepted definition used across academic departments and activist space. Racism is composed of racial prejudice interpersonally and institutional bias against racial minorities. I do not hate white people, and no institution has ever built a system around disenfranchising or marginalizing white men, so I am not a racist.”
Yahoo Lifestyle couldn’t reach the editorial staff at the Dickinsonian for comment. Co-editors Rachael Franchini and Jules Struck told the conservative and political news website the Western Journal, “The editorial page is a place for students to express their personal views on issues of concern to them. Our editorial policy is to ensure that pieces are not based in factually incorrect information, do not aim to incite violence, and are relevant to the Dickinson community. This piece reflects the author’s personal experience. The Dickinsonian neither agrees nor disagrees with it, or with any of our editorial columnists.”
The college’s president Margee M. Ensign didn’t reply to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. She reportedly wrote in an email to students, published by the conservative news site the Daily Wire, “I have heard from many of you about an opinion piece in The Dickinsonian. First, let me remind you that The Dickinsonian is a student-run newspaper that has editorial control over its content. It expresses the opinions of its writers — it does not speak for the college.”
“Let me be clear,” wrote Ensign in the email. “Dickinson believes in free speech. We also condemn stereotyping and prejudice. Dickinson values inclusivity. We expect our community members to engage in thoughtful dialogue and believe that no group or individual should be silenced. It is a fundamental policy of the college to respect pluralism and to promote civility and mutual understanding.”
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