Silence and Screaming Not the Only Ways to Confront Intolerance

“If we refuse to talk openly about our diversity and the difficulties of negotiating this new environment, then we negate the opportunities for cultural interaction and learning that diversity is supposed to bring.” So argues Michael Tubbs, Stanford student, Black Student Union leader, and Co-Chair of Diversity and Tolerance Initiatives for the ASSU, in an unpublished Stanford Daily op-ed.

The goal of fostering open conversation about culture and ignorance is indeed a laudable one—the Stanford Review commends Mr. Tubbs and many other student leaders across this campus for striving for just that. Stanford’s campus is a truly welcoming and diverse community due to the continued efforts of its students.

We also acknowledge, however, that this campus is still not free of intolerance. According to Mr. Tubbs, an Act of Intolerance (AOI) occurred just weeks ago during a campus distribution of invitations to an upcoming event. As reported by Review staff writer Rubi Ancajas, Mr. Tubbs has claimed that when entering a Stanford dorm, he was “interrogated by four Caucasian students.” In a later interview with this newspaper, Mr. Tubbs indicated the he was confident that the event would not have occurred if he was not a “6-foot-tall black male.”

In this piece, we do not intend to weigh in on whether an Act of Intolerance indeed occurred, as Mr. Tubbs has claimed. However, Mr. Tubbs’s recent response to an alleged “Act of Intolerance” has raised questions about the appropriate way of handling such situations. And irrespective of whether the event was in fact an AOI, we strongly disagree with Mr. Tubbs’s response to the incident and find its approach counterproductive to Mr. Tubbs’s stated ends.

Mr. Tubbs’s decision to broadcast his thoughts on the incident to all of campus places in doubt his commitment to an open and frank dialogue about the issue. Accusing students of intolerance and bigotry for all of campus to see is not, in this newspaper’s opinion, the most effective way of facilitating discussion between Mr. Tubbs and the accused. Public accusations tend not to result in productive dialogue and most certainly do not encourage honest reflection on the issue.

Mr. Tubbs told us that “the op-ed was written in a way for readers to derive their own conclusions.” His actual words, however, place that claim very much in doubt. In one instance, Mr. Tubbs compares the Stanford students that questioned him to a lynch mob. He writes, “I had never been more aware of my race, or of the fact that a mere 60 years ago a similar altercation with the same individuals could have resulted in something much more horrifying—like my body dangling from a tree.” Such language certainly does not allow for readers to “derive their own conclusions” and, once more, complicates Mr. Tubbs’s aim of “open” discussion.

Mr. Tubbs described his initial response to the incident in question as “suffering in silence,” which, we will agree, is not a productive response to intolerance. Speaking out will be necessary for making progress on intolerance. However Mr. Tubbs’s subsequent approach was tantamount to screaming, a tone of voice not normally associated with productive dialogue. Indeed neither silence nor screaming will resolve remaining issues of intolerance, and we encourage Mr. Tubbs and others to find the appropriate middle-ground to confront these issues.

The effects of Mr. Tubbs’s mass emails and Facebook marketing efforts are clear—few seem at all willing to discuss the incident in question. Review reporters attempted to interview officials at VPSA and various people at Otero (the dorm in which the incident occurred), but none were willing to speak with us extensively. Some offered brief statements but chose not to delve into any specifics nor offer their own thoughts on the matter.

So much for “open” dialogue.

Please note correction: originally, Michael Tubbs was not identified as the Co-Chair of Diversity and Tolerance Initiatives for the ASSU — that has now been added.

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