Education

Professor Attacks University For Mourning Paris Attacks Without Mentioning Baltimore

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A faculty member and two graduate students at the University of Denver (DU) have written a letter castigating the school for showing an “implicit bias towards white life” because it sent out emails concerning the terrorist attack in Paris last November.

Professor Armond Towns and graduate students Raisa Alvarado and Jamie Guzmán, all members of DU’s communications department, had a letter published Sunday in the Clarion which complains about emails DU administrators sent to students in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, which killed 137 people. The emails were partly prompted by concerns about the safety of 29 DU students who were studying in Europe at the time of the attacks.

“While these emails appear neutral, they do two things: first, they note a necessary condemnation of the loss of (white) life; second, they situate the spaces in which people of color have lost their lives, like Baghdad, as not necessary (or deserving) of response,” the letter says.

Sending out emails concerning the Paris attacks, but not other attacks in other countries, contributes to a “valorization of white life,” the letter argues.

“Whether it is a lack of acknowledgement of hurricanes in Mexico, or mass murder in Kenya, or Muslims killed in Baghdad, the assumption is that DU is most impacted by events that occur in Western countries,” the letter says. “The assumption is that ‘our’ students are not in, or from, Mexico, Kenya, Baltimore, Palestine, or Baghdad. Put differently, if ‘we’ are ‘all’ French now, this is clearly not meant to apply to DU’s Muslims.”

The letter’s three authors then go on to compare the school’s response to Paris to its response to decidedly less lethal events on campus. They attack the school for not specifically criticizing white people after a wall painting supporting protests at the University of Missouri was defaced. They also express frustration because a campaign against culturally stereotypical Halloween costumes was sometimes not taken seriously by white students, and the school did nothing to reprimand them:

“We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” is a serious endeavor to get white students to think before dressing as an Asian, black, or Latinx character. However, many white students’ responses on social media were far from serious. One Latinx student reportedly received pictures from white students dressed in Dia de Los Muertos makeup, with the caption “When people judge you for supposedly judging them–or rather, become a victim of their own delusions.” This same Latinx student was later demeaned by white classmates and a professor in class for speaking out about the pictures. Here, racism is her burden alone, because DU says nothing.

The complaints by Towns and his students actually aren’t huge outliers. In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, there were a host of pieces around the web complaining that Paris received undue focus because the attack was on white people in a wealthy country instead of non-whites in impoverished or war-torn countries.

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