On November 23, 2020, Jodi Shaw, the whistleblower alumna and Student Support Coordinator of Smith College, who has asked the college to stop reducing her “personhood to a racial category”, shared on Facebook the following “snippet” of a then-forthcoming Open Letter against her:

https://www.facebook.com/mary.delgado.9231/posts/3349420668488809

The the Open Letter (archive)(which is not dated, but appears to be finalized on November 11, 2020) is currently signed by 55 alumnae of Smith College (archive), ranging from the graduating class of 1984 to 2020. (The 20th century signatories, however, are in the minority).

The Open Letter begins as follows (please note that the word “white” is capitalized, which is typically frowned upon by proponents of Ibram Kendi’s “Anti-Racism” doctrine):

Dear Smith College students, faculty, staff, and fellow alums,

Recently, a White staff member at the College began posting inflammatory videos to a YouTube account, the first of which [see NOTE below*] has amassed––at the time of this writing–– fifty-five thousand views. We have provided a link to a Vimeo here, so as to avoid contributing additional views––and therefore YouTube ad revenue––to the staff member in question. These videos expound at length, though with little actual detail, on various complaints about this staff member’s conditions of employment, largely relating to the College’s recent efforts to implement implicit bias and anti-racist training as a means of embracing equity and inclusion both on and off campus.

As a group of Smith College alums who share these values of equity and inclusion, we feel called to voice our support for the College’s ongoing commitment to anti-racist work. This work has been reaffirmed and refocused in recent months for members of the broader Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) Smith community, for whom this is only the latest of many well-documented and ongoing instances of racism, silencing, and disenfranchisement. While applicable to the entire Smith Community, this work is of the utmost importance for current students and staff, whose immediate safety and wellbeing during an already difficult semester have been compromised by the overt resentment and ire expressed by this community-facing member of the Smith staff, and by the national attention it has garnered.

We applaud the creation of the employee White Accountability Group, as we recognize the importance of spaces for White staff to learn and address their biases together. We were also gratified to read President McCartney’s October 29th letter, written in response to the aforementioned video, affirming the College’s commitment to racial justice, equity, and inclusion.

*NOTE to above: The video linked in the Open Letter is not the original YouTube link posted by Shaw. It appears as though someone, other than Shaw, uploaded Shaw’s video to Vimeo and linked the Vimeo video to the Open Letter. Shaw commented on the Vimeo link:

Hi there. Thanks for watching my video. I see it has 360 views but only 50+ people have signed the letter. This tells me that at least *some* of you watching this support what I am doing. Please know you are not alone. The vast majority (I estimate 98%) of people who have contacted me have expressed support. Please know, there is NOTHING liberal about Smith’s “anti-racist” agenda. The ideology behind it would have us believe that ones immutable characteristics are the single most important thing about them and posits students/staff of color as *inherently* marginalized/oppressed and white students/staff as *inherently* racist. In other words, Smith’s “anti-racism” agenda teaches students/staff that their skin color is their destiny. This rhetoric is disempowering across the board, goes against liberal values, and is entirely antithetical to the traditional liberal arts education that Smith still bills itself as providing. If we want Smith to be an institution that empowers women – all women, including women of color- then we need to stop the neo-racist rhetoric. Racism is racism, even if it does come wrapped up in a progressive bow.

In the second paragraph of the Open Letter, the signatories concede that Shaw is gaining “national attention”. In fact, Shaw was recently featured on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

Shaw, herself, highlights one of the most (of the many) shocking sections of the Open Letter (emphasis added):

We believe there is ample work to be done in pursuit of justice, and that it welcomes all hands willing to humbly listen to difficult truths. We believe all Smith community members should strive to be grounded in the realities of the society in which we live. In the face of uncomfortable learning and change, there will always be those whose insecurity manifests as a digging in of heels. It is clear that this staff member, whose video evinces both a staggering lack of self-awareness and a deep preoccupation with disavowing the idea of White privilege, is indeed in need of further training before she can safely interact with students and fellow staff in the course of her employment.

Where to begin?

Certainly, in America we seek truth and justice through our court system; however, not all Americans, and certainly not all members of the Smith College community, are required to see the “reality” described by Open Letter signatories.

The signatories to this Open Letter describes Shaw’s initial video as “inflammatory”. Yet, many reasonable individuals would describe Shaw’s demeanor as balanced, her speech as articulate, and her first video (see below), as well as her subsequent videos, as thoughtful.

Shaw’s videos and the allegations within are garnering national attention, because she is raising legitimate claims of a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as she is claiming discrimination on the basis of race. The problem is this: most individuals that believe in “White Privilege”, “Systemic Racism”, “Implicit Bias”, and the Black Lives Matter Movement do not believe that white individuals can be discriminated on the basis of their race. Reality check: discrimination against every race is possible, and discrimination against every race is wrong.

The Open Letter states that “there will always be those whose insecurity manifests as a digging in of heels,” but the author is likely describing herself. Still, the author, and the President of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, continue to “double-down” on their efforts to champion the goals of the widely-disputed Critical Race Theory. The goal of this Open Letter is not about “prioritiz[ing] safety or welcom[ing] all students”, it’s about forcing everyone on campus—students, faculty, and staff alike—to adopt certain political ideologies “veiled” as apolitical.

The Open Letter, again, deems Shaw as lacking “self-awareness”, but the reader can conclude that it is the signatories who make assumptions about Shaw on the basis of Shaw’s race without knowing Shaw’s family history, childhood, or upbringing. You might call that…well, racism.

The Open Letter’s final argument, that Shaw is “in need of further of training before she can safely interact with students and fellow staff in the course of her employment,” does not pass, as attorneys say, “The Straight-Face Test”. The author’s argument is akin to the argument on many college campuses today: hate speech is violence. This argument is deeply flawed. Firstly, “hate speech” is subjective: what is “offensive” to one individual is not to another. Secondly, the argument that hate speech is violence lends credence to the idea that physical and violent force is a proper response to “hate speech”, à la ANTIFA.

Just because Shaw has an idea that the signatories do not like or agree with, does not make Shaw “dangerous”. In fact, I would submit that the signatories, who are indirectly suggesting a type of re-education training, are more “dangerous” to this college campus. Shaw is attempting to discuss legitimate concerns potentially impacting the students, faculty, staff, and administration of Smith College. The signatories are trying to shame and scare Shaw into silence, because Shaw disagrees with them, and in their view, there must be uniformity of thought on the Smith College campus. College is supposed to be the science lab of free speech and ideas, not the indoctrination center of controlled thought.

UPDATE 11-30-2020

The Alumnae letter now has been published at the Smith College student newspaper, An Open Letter From Smith Alums In Response to Recent Videos. The list of signatories is up to 65 as of this signing. According to the letter:

This letter was written collaboratively by members of the Smith alum anti-racism Facebook group “Smithies Show Up (& Do the Work), with editorial guidance provided by Elizabeth Walters ’01, KT Herr ’07, and current Smith student Egypt Ballet ’23

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Leah M. Baldacci, Esq. is the Investigations Counsel at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.

 

 
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