Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Editorial Board
Dear members of the Swarthmore community,
These past several days have given me much time for thought and reflection. Last Thursday, The Daily Gazette published a piece I penned entitled “Kaepernick’s Well-Intentioned but Ineffectual Protest.” Through conversations I’ve had with a number of both students and adults since the publishing of said article, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow as a person, and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to resist.
While it wasn’t my intention, people felt understandably hurt by my op-ed. Not only had two Swarthmore students kneeled during the national anthem the night before (unbeknownst to myself and the editors who reviewed my article) but this was an issue many Black students here at Swarthmore felt very strongly about. Looking back on my thoughts about the issue prior to the article, I realize that I had failed to take into account the way Black students on this campus felt about Colin Kaepernick. To so many people, especially Black people, Colin Kaepernick has been an inspiration and a symbol for resistance. When people were dying in the streets at the hands of law enforcement, Kaepernick put his job and his reputation on the line to do something he believed in. He had a platform unparalleled by so many, and he stood up for those who couldn’t, for those who didn’t have a voice as loud as his. Police brutality disproportionately affects people of color in America, but especially African-Americans. Kneeling during the anthem became a powerful symbol of what it meant to stand up against such brutality.
Unwittingly, my article became the mouthpiece for attempts to silence such resistance. I thought by avoiding the language used by current critics of Kaepernick, I could avoid furthering attempts to silence Black voices in America. But for so long in America, Black people have been told not only to be silent about their oppression, but that their ways of speaking out were “ineffective.” I failed to understand that the latter narrative has been put forth for decades by opponents of equality and justice. Even mass demonstrations like the March on Washington that we celebrate today were labeled as “hurting” the cause for racial equality by the majority of Americans in 1960.
I recognize now that the argument I made continued this same narrative, and as such, people felt justifiably hurt, and I apologize for the pain and offense it caused. Although I thought I was being helpful, people of color are different, and the ways in which we speak out against injustice should not be policed by anyone, most definitely not myself. It makes me feel so bad that so many people are hurting. I know I cannot undo the pain that I caused to many of Swarthmore’s Black students, but I hope this is a start towards regaining the trust of Swarthmore’s African-American community.
Moving forward, The Daily Gazette will work to implement reforms and recommendations, one of which will be to design an official op-ed policy, something long overdue. The policy will take into account the viewpoints of a students from a variety of backgrounds. We will make such changes public in full once they are completed. I am proud of the fact that we at the DG have an amazing diversity of students on our Editorial Board. 11 of our 14 editors are people of color. But we still have a long way to go. Though the road to progress is long, as Editor-in-Chief, I promise to work to make sure we won’t fall off track again.
Siddharth Srivatsan ‘20