Halloween at Yale in 2015 has led to student protests about racism at the university.
On October 27th, an email was sent to all students urging them not to wear blackface for Halloween or anything else insensitive.
On October 30th, the day before Halloween, Erika Christakis, whose husband Nicholas is house master of Silliman College at Yale, emailed Sillimanders, telling them they could be anything for Halloween:
“Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”
Not taking into account that Blacks at Yale are hugely outnumbered, that when they do try to talk to Whites who wear offensive costumes, they are mocked, sometimes threatened with violence.
Christakis was, in effect, giving a green light to open racism.
Enter Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), they who sang of hanging “niggers” from trees earlier this year. At their Halloween party at Yale they turned away Black and Latina women, saying it was for “white girls only”. They turned away Neema Githere, whose Facebook post about it went viral.
In the days that followed, as student Jencey Paz put it:
“I have had to watch my friends defend their right to this institution. This email [by Christakis] and the subsequent reaction to it have interrupted their lives. I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns. I feel drained. And through it all, Christakis has shown that he does not consider us a priority.”
And through it all, Jonathan Holloway, Yale’s first ever Black dean, said nothing.
As one student put it:
“For that person to be the most silent is the saddest thing in the
On November 5th, hundreds of students gathered in the Silliman courtyard, and used chalk to express themselves.
Then Dean Holloway showed up. Students told him what they were going through, sometimes breaking down in tears, telling him how disappointed they were in him. It was painful and sad. He said little, but he listened.
Then came Nicholas Christakis himself. Every time they tried to tell him about the pain he had caused, he tried to turn it into a debate about free speech.
At last one student let him have it:
Student: “[In] your position as headmaster, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students who live in Silliman.”
Christakis: “No, I don’t agree with that -”
Student: (shouting) “Then why the fuck did you accept the position? Who the fuck hired you? You should step down! If that is what you think of being headmaster, you should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not!”
On November 9th, about a thousand students protested racism at Yale, chanting:
“We are unstoppable. Another Yale is possible.”
– Abagond, 2015.
- Mizzou campus protests
- The N-word
- the asymmetry of racism
- White empathy
- Playing devil’s advocate – turning discussions about racism into a “debate”.
- My philosophy on trolls
- racism and free speech at universities:
- How Yale benefited from Black slavery