Letter to the Editor

Zak Kahn

To the editor,

(In response to “None dare call it indoctrination” by Andrew Breland)

People like being contrarian. It just feels good to say “I disagree!” sometimes. But these outbursts are seldom founded on any real opposition to what is being discussed, and more often on derailing and dismissal.

Andrew Breland seems to believe that just because the discussion on race is now active and progressive, not reactive and reactionary, that all of a sudden no new ideas will be accepted. This is just incorrect and contrarian simply for the fun of it, it seems. Breland argues that unless one espouses the “right” views, his or her voice will be shutdown. This is simply not the case. The only “right” view here is that students should be free from racism and othering of all forms. With that out of the way, the rest of the debate is open.

The fact that Breland finds diversity training “terrifying” is telling. Diversity training, while stopgap, does at least have the benefit of making everyone aware of intersectionality, race, and privilege, issues too often ignored otherwise. Case requires its employees to be drug-tested, able to work, etc., so why not require them to understand the people they will and are working with?

Despite the vague, pseudo-Orwellian allusions Breland makes, there is no conspiracy here to indoctrinate anybody. Rather, the debate on race at Case Western Reserve University has finally been torn open, and those wishing to hastily tape it back together are grasping at straws.

Breland seems to think that if no one is shouting racial slurs, then everything is okay and we can move on. This is simply not so. Racism, systems of oppression and group relationships cannot simply be said to be “solved.” The dialogue will be continuous, because it has to be. New ideas and situations will crop up and be addressed, as the best movements allow them to be.

Speaking of continuity, Breland seems upset by Henton’s comparisons to the Civil Rights era. But this is another example of how continuous debate is beneficial. Henton draws on the legacy created by others to create dialogue that is meaningful and relevant to both the past and our current struggles. As members of a minority group, we often turn to our pasts to find examples of how our ancestors combated oppression and use them to create debate and action now. Breland seems skittish because of 1960s race riots (which actually existed before the Civil Rights movement, too), but this is telling. People used the same “riots” line to fight the Civil Rights movement. They, and Breland, are not afraid of riots; the fear is of the dialogue itself.

What CWRU is doing, then, is not “telling us what to think.” It’s telling us to think.