December 10, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Racism and S.A. Resolution 11

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To the Editor:

Recent events surrounding the Student Assembly have exposed a scourge of ignorance and injustice at Cornell. The administration has remained silent while students have been subjected to personal and professional harassment. This refusal to protect their most marginalized students by allowing rampant racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, misogyny, sexism, classism and outright bigotry to go unchecked demonstrates the emptiness of administration’s promises to create an inclusive, anti-racist campus. Indeed, even members of the S.A. who ran on platforms of “Diversity and Inclusion” and promised to “uplift marginalized voices,” have failed to live up to their promises. As a result, it is the right and duty of constituents to hold these members accountable for their failure to uphold these values.

In fact, the entire premise of campus democracy – and any representative democracy for that matter – is that community members elect representatives who they reserve the right to remove or hold accountable through other means for not acting in the best interests of their constituents. The resistance to accountability evident among some members of the S.A. and other opponents of police disarmament reveals an unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions within the Cornell community. Constituents have the right to hold their elected representatives accountable when those representatives have voted in a way that displeases them. Otherwise, there can be no democracy. This is true for the S.A. as well. 

Cornellians witnessed what accountability looks like when the 14 S.A. members who blatantly ignored the pleas of their most marginalized constituents faced warranted backlash from the constituents they failed to represent. In light of the countless recent and historical instances of police violence against marginalized communities, these constituents felt that their safety was undermined by the S.A.’s rejection of Resolution 11, which sought to disarm a police force that admitted to not having cause to discharge a weapon in 25 years. 

It is extremely insensitive and disingenous of opponents of disarmament to frame jokes on social media as “threats of violence,” while remaining completely silent in the face of actual racist, homophobic and outright hateful harassment directed at multiple Black co-sponsors of Resolution 11. Not a single so-called “ally” of Black lives has actually stood up for their Black peers on the S.A. who are facing real, terrifying threats in their personal and professional lives. 

Nonetheless, Resolution 15, demanding the S.A. to unequivocally support the Black Lives Matter movement, passed unanimously on Dec. 3. Yet, the cosponsor of the resolution dealt with harassment in the middle of her presentation. Again, not a single S.A. member spoke out against the harassment. Indeed, the harassment of BIPOC students standing up for racial justice is by no means an isolated event. Over the summer, several queer, trans, and  S.A. members of color were relentlessly harassed, oftentimes anonymously, for speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We want to be clear: Voting “yes” on Resolution 15 is in direct contradiction to voting “no” on Resolution 11. You cannot claim “Black Lives Matter,” yet refuse to materially protect the lives of Black students. Performative activism is no longer enough.

Despite the continuous harassment, we acknowledge that, as student leaders, these events and any actions by relevant parties can and should be reported on by a school newspaper. However, in providing racist, homophobic Cornell students with a platform, The Cornell Daily Sun is complicit in upholding white supremacy. While we acknowledge that Cornell students can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum of political ideologies, we refuse to believe that it is acceptable or responsible to allow opinion columnists to openly promote racist and discriminatory practices, or to repeatedly attack the character of specific named individuals. These columnists consistently single out the most marginalized among us — namely Black women, queer Black folk,and trans folk.

We recognize the importance of journalistic neutrality; however, it should not supersede ethics or basic decency. We do not expect The Sun to change the minds of their writers, but we do expect The Sun to exercise editorial discretion when articles, particularly those riddled with racially-charged undertones and coded language, are being considered for publication. By repeatedly providing these students with a platform, The Sun is complicit in anti-Black racism, misogyny and transphobia.

Despite these repeated attempts to silence its organizers, it is clear after Tuesday’s Town Hall that students across campus passionately and overwhelmingly support Resolution 11. 

To the members of the Student Assembly who voted “no” on Resolution 11: 

To ignore the pleas and testimonies of countless Cornellians is a blatant disregard for your duty as elected representatives. In choosing to preserve the role of police at Cornell, you are actively opposing the collectivist thought of the entire community protecting itself. By upholding the racist institution of policing, you are preserving individualistic protections, which have repeatedly been shown to prioritize the safety of white people, thus shifting the responsibility of keeping these students safe to those most vulnerable, rather than doing your part to keep Cornell’s most marginalized students safe from police violence. Marginalized communities are prepared to step up and keep our own communities safe when cops become obsolete — are you willing to do the same? 

There is still time to correct this wrong. If you truly want to fulfill your role of representing the student body, we urge you to swallow your pride, reconsider your position and vote “yes” on Resolution 11.

Moriah Adeghe ’21

Uche Chukwukere ’21

Tomás Reuning ’21

Amber Haywood ’21

Kataryna Restrepo ’21

Lucy Contreras ’21

Estefanía Perez ’21

Savanna Lim ’21

Angeliki Cintron ’22

Tyler Brown ’22

Sherell Farmer ’22

Noah Watson ’22

Valeria Valencia ’23

Selam Woldai ’23