The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Staff Editorial: Supporting the SJP walkout

Students have walked out. A community member wrote a letter to The Guilfordian, and spaces for healing have been created. It is safe to say that author and reporter Edwin Black’s visit to our campus on Nov. 4 and 5 has stirred up a lot of emotions.

Discussions about who is worthy of our time and who we want to invite to speak still linger. When college administrators invited Black back to campus after a 2011 lecture that proved controversial, they believed having a “different perspective” would benefit the school, without consulting the people who would be attending the event: our student population.

It is no surprise that when concerned students heard of Black’s new visit to Guilford, and in a format that would not allow for true discussion, they followed the core values that drew them to this community and what we are taught to do here. They stood up against what they perceived to be injustice and intolerance.

The walk-out from Black’s lecture on Nov. 4, organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, was an example of Guilford students attempting to exercise their beliefs in justice and community. They sought to show that as a community we should not tolerate attacks on a specific people based on aspects of their identity.

At Black’s lecture, SJP handed out a statement expressing why they walked out of his talk. The handout reads, in part, “We refuse to listen to Edwin Black for the following reasons: Black is famous for writing a text called ‘IBM and the Holocaust’ which discussed clandestine relationships between corporate entities and the Nazis.”

His later work, the handout continues, is rooted in a “revisionist history about ‘Arab’ participation in the Holocaust — which is not only untrue, but works to buttress violence from the state of Israel against Palestinian communities in the present era.”

Black’s views on Arab and Muslim people are ones we are taught to examine, discuss, and, where appropriate, unlearn in our classes. Our professors challenge us to transcend our learned biases and by doing so enrich our interpersonal relationships and understanding of the world we live in. At a liberal arts institution, we are taught to challenge and think critically about what mainstream media have already told us and perceptions we may already have.

While valuing people’s rights to freedom of speech, our commitment to upholding Quaker values has also taught us the difference between an active dialogue of different opinions and a one-sided presentation that, in this case, struck Palestinian students and their supporters as akin to hate speech.

We cannot say what we learned from Black in 2011, but over these past two weeks, we have certainly grown as a community as a result of his recent visit and listening to reactions across campus. At a college committed to creating a dynamic and safe place for learning for all community members, it should be no surprise that if Guilford students feel left out of decision-making processes, they will find a creative way to engage.

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    David FrazierMay 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    When you walk out you end dialogue and hope for peace and change. Stay. Support peace and equality between Israel and Palestine.