Late Sunday night, a Stanford student RA in the EVGR dormitory emailed the building’s 2,400 residents to warn against a “gross inequity” that risked students “being killed or maimed for a lifetime.” The danger in question? Maskless students— especially white ones. The RA wrote:
I am compelled to send this email because the overwhelming majority of masking non-compliance I have witnessed in our community has been from white students - a gross inequity. In addition to being a matter of public safety and interpersonal respect, compliance with our community masking requirement is a racial justice issue. As a white person who understands the historical relationship between white culture and infectious diseases, and has been personally traumatized by the callousness of anti-masking rhetoric and behaviors in my own life and globally, I find masking non-compliance to be extremely racist, triggering, disrespectful, and immature.
Yes, you read that right. The author of this email has claimed that white students are responsible for “the overwhelming majority masking non-compliance,” and this casual observation translates into a “gross inequity.” And of course, no denunciation of racism would be complete without a reference to “systems of oppression”’— in this case, “the historical relationship between white culture and infectious diseases.”
Presumably, this is a reference to the deadly diseases that came with Europeans to the Americas during the Columbian Exchange, but how that historical occurrence can be linked to “white culture” is left entirely up to the imagination. And if “white culture” is code for Western civilization, then the fact we have it to thank for the development of vaccines is conveniently omitted.
Equally egregious is the author’s declaration that he has “been personally traumatized by the callousness of anti-masking rhetoric and behaviors in [his] own life.” How disagreeing about mask-wearing can cause “trauma” is anyone’s guess, and it’s also worth wondering whether someone so troubled not just by other people’s behavior, but by diverging opinions is fit for a student staff position.
The concluding sentence of the paragraph above suggests that the author is driven to enforce mask compliance for his own emotional comfort. This, alongside the blatant animosity and anti-white racism, begs the question: why are students expressing such prejudice afforded positions of power on Stanford's campus?
The RA ended his email with a “direct reminder” for “fellow white residents” - “a personal decision to not wear a mask could result in you and/or your classmate(s) being killed or maimed for a lifetime.” But anyone worried about a lifetime of “being maimed” can rest easy. The author is committed to “confronting instances by intervening verbally and offering a mask.” If anyone’s looking for a free face covering and a heavy dose of racial prejudice, EVGR’s the place to find it.
But the drama wasn’t over yet. Shortly after the email was sent out, the student RA was confronted by a Stanford student who pushed back against his claims and posted the following response in a student group chat:
Not wearing a mask in the building, against the regulations, is wrong. However, there is literally no reason to make it a “white people and their culture are bad” issue. Neglecting to mask up indoors IS disrespectful and immature. However, it is not racist and should not be “triggering.” Blaming white students for not masking based on personal observations and insinuating they are racist and want their fellow students to be “killed or maimed” is disgraceful. I understand some white people have a chronic need to virtue signal, but perhaps such rhetoric should be left out of emails from RAs. Great job making students of all identities feel welcome in their place of residence.
Two hours later, the student RA was back with a new diatribe to rival his initial outburst–only this time, it was a targeted attack on the student that had confronted him, posted as an open letter in the group chat for all to see:
“I’m going to respond to you line-by-line, because I found your message hurtful,” the post began before doubling down on his claims of racism: “Doing my job requires me to face reality,” including that of the “factual experiences I have had with predominantly white people in this building.” And because not wearing a mask “has a disproportionate, negative impact on people who are not white,” it’s therefore racist. Besides: “Imho [in my humble opinion], white people are racist. White people do racism every day. I simply call attention to the racist behaviors that I have observed. Facts are facts.” Case closed.
The letter continued in this vein, with the student RA insisting that his email was a necessary measure to protect the EVGR community from white students’ harm. He, after all, was the bold pioneer willing to “leverage my privilege as an RA to respectfully and honestly confront a serious, real problem,” armed by the knowledge that “there is a whole community to support me and each other in resolving this conflict, including if I make a mistake.”
By its thirteenth paragraph, the letter, which is included in full at the bottom of the page, reached a crescendo of hysteria and whining:
While reading your message, I felt deep sorrow in response to the white fragility and manipulation/gaslighting that I felt it contained. Among other things, Covid is unrelenting in exposing the deficiencies in how we coexist. We all have to reckon with these deficiencies and it is not easy. This conversation is part of my attempts. This conversation is part of my attempts at that reckoning. I wish you the best on your own growth journey, but I won’t tolerate any gaslighting of myself and other residents on your way [sic]. If you’d like to talk more about this, please contact another friend of [sic] staff member. In part because of how triggering it was, responding to your message took a lot of energy and I am likely not the best RA to continue this conversation with you.
In this RA’s mind, the backlash to his email didn’t just confirm the evils of white students who willfully risked maiming and killing their classmates. It also turned him into a martyr.
And while the emotional labor of disagreeing with someone might have done him in, he still felt up to posting a few more inflammatory messages to the group chat, including the brash declaration that “fear of open conflict is a characteristic of white supremacy culture” and a screenshot of a lengthy article titled, “On Colonial Unknowing,” which professes to “analyz[e] epistemologies of unknowing by engaging critical indigenous thought, critical race theory, postcolonial feminist theory, critical disability studies, queer theory, and women of color feminism in order to trouble theorizations of settler colonialism as a stand-alone analytic.” Though its content can hardly be described as meaningful or coherent, the article does at least confirm the extent to which the RA in question is steeped in Critical Social Justice and its racist, illiberal doctrine.
An individual who demonstrates such blatant bigotry, publicly humiliates those he disagrees with, and then refuses to engage in further conversation because he finds it “triggering” is in no position to take on leadership roles in a dorm. His behavior is in clear violation of the Fundamental Standard, as he has failed to “respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others regardless of race, color, [and] national or ethnic origin.”
It’s time for ResEd to take a stand. Residential staff are supposed to resolve interpersonal conflicts, not instigate them. This student RA is guilty of the very racism, disrespect, and immaturity he describes. He should either apologize and commit to treating all students with respect, regardless of race, or he should step down. ResEd should seriously evaluate his fitness for the position and consider whether his actions are grounds for dismissal.