Consider what “People of Color”
Experience Every Day

By Steve Buck

Bill, you talked of a program, called “Cleveland Now” “to help inner city neighborhoods” and say “millions were soon spent and forgotten.” The clear implication is that anything to deal with such problems is money down the rat hole, and that poor people, particularly blacks in ghettos, are a hopeless case. Having now been to a ghetto (Anacostia, the poor, black crime-ridden part of DC) at all times of the day and night for over a decade, I think it’s a bit more complicated than you paint it. Start off with 200 years of slavery, add 100 years of Jim Crow, and then add how difficult it is for black males to find a job when there is no one they know who can really help – certainly none of the lovely connections of dear old Yale.

I’m glad you wrote what you did, as this could perhaps open a dialogue and provide some “teachable moments.”

“Others at Yale did not and do not scream,
but do have concerns that need to be addressed.”

These could include opening your eyes to what “People of Color” experience every day, probably including at Yale.

To give you some examples I know of personally — I’m 100 percent WASP, with the first member of my mother’s family a Puritan preacher who arrived in Winchester, Mass in 1636, and my father’s family descending from a Methodist circuit rider who arrived in New Jersey in 1790. My aunt’s daughter married a black man in 1972 and in the early 90’s her teen-aged son would sometimes stay at his grandmother’s, in a lily-white suburb of Kansas City. Whenever he got into her big old Oldsmobile and drove around, he would be stopped by the local police for “DWB” — Driving While Black. He could plausibly argue that he is as much WASP as black, but that would have gotten him nowhere. Black males are by definition worthy of suspicion, something I hear over and over again from the black teen-aged boys I have mentored in the Boys to Men Mentoring program for a dozen years.

And it’s not just young black males. I’m a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and a good friend of a fellow Foreign Service Officer who is black and grew up in the “projects.” He served four times as Ambassador, and wound up retiring with the rank of Career Ambassador, the equivalent of a four star general. Yet not long ago, at age 75, when he sat down in a nearly empty pew at his church a white woman near by immediately grabbed her purse.

I could go on. My point is that we while males are largely clueless as to what it’s like to be black in America. Black Lives Matter is not “absurdist,” as you call it. As videos clearly show, policeman are murdering blacks simply because they are black. If a black is killed in the ghetto, no one cares. If a white in suburbia, big deal.

Bill, what I read underlying much of what you have written is anger and fear. Fear often produces bad results, such as the invasion of Iraq.

The screaming girl may have been off-base and it’s easy to publicize her and forget all the others at Yale who did not and do not scream, but do have concerns that need to be addressed.

We are in a time of change. And this can be uncomfortable. I’d love it if you could actually talk to some of these Yale undergraduates, and better yet, rather than lecture, listen. It could do a world of good.




Please comment below. Thanks.

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17 comments to Consider what “people of color” experience every day

  • Bill Boyer

    Folks, despite all of your ill-meant humor, distortion and vilification, my piece is about behavior — Yale’s and its students’.
    It is decidedly NOT about skin color.

    Aren’t some of you embarrassed to be talking about “our poor disadvantaged, downtrodden black.brothers and sisters?”
    Wait a minute. Are you REALLY launching the lingo of the white man’s burden? How demeaning and dismissive can you get?
    Why don’t some of you Sunday solons make the effort to read the source materials? Do some homework.

  • Ken Lockridge

    Thanks to Chris and to Steve Buck and the others of like mind who make me proud to be Yale ’62. If you have old close Black friends, you understand, and just want the war to end. Of course their kids who go to Yale etc feel guilty that tbey have this opportunity when so few do. Of course their list of demands was a mixture of the heartbreaking and the absurd. Of course no one has to give the store away, only share it. The world will never tumble if we love others and share their hurts, nor will it tumble if we assert reasonable values we can all share. You others, I ask you to give me, finally, a Yale I can admire. We are closer than ever, a long road since ’58. In a failing world, let us go out in style, and together.
    Ken Lockridge

  • Thank you Steve, Jim, Roscoe and Chip for agreeing with Steve. I agree with Steve. Chubby Checker apparently agrees with Bill.
    Chubby, if I agreed with Bill I wouldn’t be proud of it either.

    The real Chubby Checker is an African American musician. Assumming that our Chubby Checker is also African American would raise the number of African Americans in our class to four – Charles Grant (page 357 in our Class Book) and Chubby Checker, as well as me and my deceased first cousin Bill (page 403). It is unusual these days for white folks to pass as black folks (but absolutely not unusual for black folks to pass as white folks). So Chubby, if you actually are white I applaud you for breaking a stereotype by pretending to be black thereby increasing the percentage of African Americans in our class by 25%.

    Assuming that the demographics of Dixwell Avenue have not changed from the Dixwell of our day and assuming that our Chubby in actuality is white, my suggestion is that Bill and Chubby take a stroll down Dixwell in blackface while extolling their first amendment rights. Back in the day, the funniest black man in North America, Bert Williams, appeared in black face while telling Rastus jokes. Rastus was from Jamaica – Bert Williams, the Bahamas. So Chubby, it makes no difference whether you’re black or white – you’re still Chubby even when you’re in blackface.

    Classmates, this is becoming tiresome. The best reason for eliminating the address “Master” is because it prevents a highly qualified applicant surnamed “Bates” from ever becoming master of a Yale college. Why? – “Master Bates!”

    Finally, Calhoun is also the name of the lawyer in Amos and Andy. Many of us black people did not like being reminded of Amos and Andy every time we encountered Calhoun College. Later in life, when totally backed into a corner while practicing law, I would ask myself “what would Calhoun do?” In one case Calhoun advised me to convey to the court that a missing witness in a case involving sausage had been chopped up with a meat cleaver and tossed into the sausage – I won the case without being sanctioned. The case was then retried. Another firm represented my client and my client won again, the witness was still not produced.

    In another case I asked myself what would Calhoun do and he advised me to transfer a federal case from the Washington District Court to the Baltimore District Court. When the other side objected because the Baltimore forum was inconvenient, Calhoun advised that I list every way possible for one to travel from Washington to Baltimore including taking the bus. The white judge handling the transfer was so amused that he allowed the transfer. The black judge to whom the case was assigned was so embarrassed by the case that he told us to settle the case; that he was was going to take it out of the Clerk’s Office and put it in the top of his closet, and that whoever reopened the case would loose. After 25 years I began to get phone calls from other lawyers asking me how I accomplished such a delay. I told them I didn’t know. Didn’t tell them I consulted J. A. Calhoun. He wouldn’t have helped them anyway because they were all white. The case was transferred back to the Trademark Office and we won, but that made no difference because the parties had settled decades ago and had become friends.

    In summary, I’ve got mixed feelings about Calhoun; feel that wearing blackface is a primal insult to black folks in the USA and feel that Master should be changed to Mister or Ms because it discriminates against people named Bates.

    Please advise if you all have any other issues involving black and white folks getting along.

  • Bill Boyer

    Well, since no one has commented on the demands of Next Yale published above, it is up to me to continue the conversation, apparently. Despite the prideful contempt of Steve’s, Chip’s, James’ and other’s responses to my piece, calling me a “supercilious yahoo” stuck in the “La Brea Tar Pits” won’t change the facts on the ground. Chiding me [really? you guys, really?] for lack of public empathy for “our black brothers and sisters” and why they feel the way they do, is merely sophomoric condescension typical of the rule-writing, close-minded, knee-jerking sorts who populate academe these days. Evidently my classmates don’t comprehend that we come at this from the same place.

    But Salovey’s behavior has been so singly embarrassing as to invite an award as the “worst college President” of 2015, And in Boston, people can still think clearly, as we ought to do. Read on . . .


    By Alex Beam The Boston Globe, January 18, 2016

    THE MINDING THE CAMPUS website chose the beginning of the second semester to issue its hotly contested “Worst College President of the Year” award. The somewhat predictable winner was Yale’s Peter Salovey, who “committed millions of dollars to appease racial protesters with a basket of goodies likely to enlarge the stature of the ‘diversity’ movement on campus.”

    The past five months have worn hard on college presidents, most of whom seem to be hiding under their desks hoping that diversity-crazed protesters will wander off to a pep rally, or knuckle down with their Organic Chem study group. This is a Hayakawa Moment — a rare chance for college presidents to distinguish themselves by standing up for academic freedom.

    S.I. Hayakawa was an unprepossessing linguist who became the accidental president of San Francisco State University during a student uprising in 1968. With TV cameras rolling, he faced down a crowd of jeering students, who had brought along a sound truck to drown out their opponents. Hayakawa jumped onto the truck and ripped the wires from the speakers.

    “By noon, I was famous,” Hayakawa said. He rode his folk hero status to the US Senate in 1976.
    So who is going to step into Hayakawa’s shoes? Obviously not University of California chancellor Janet Napolitano, derided for initiating faculty training seminars that have labeled the phrase “America, the land of opportunity” as a “microaggression.” Nor the easily cowed Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber, who caved to Black Justice League demands after protesters occupied his office.

    The voice crying in the desert belongs to Oklahoma Wesleyan president Everett Piper, who warned his students in November that their evangelical Christian school was not intended to be a “ ‘safe place’, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others. . . . This is not a day care. This is a university.”

    Mr. Piper is clearly unfit to lead enlightened institutions such as Princeton, Berkeley, or Yale.

    What’s happened to university presidents? Twice during the 20th century, University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins’s face appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Red-baiters confronted Hutchins during the 1930s, and he rebuffed them in a famous speech as agitators who “insist on free speech for themselves, though nobody has thought of taking it away from them, and at the same time demand that it be denied everybody else.”

    Flush with Rockefeller money, Hutchins wanted to revolutionize US undergraduate education by forcing students to imbibe two years of core learning before proceeding to their college specialization. He almost succeeded. “In the battle of Facts v. Ideas, Educator Hutchins had taken the side of ideas,” Time wrote admiringly, calling him “The Worst Kind of Troublemaker.”

    I’d argue that Harvard’s Larry Summers was the last university president worthy of the name. He was certainly a troublemaker, compared with the milquetoasts ruling universities now. Some students admired him, plenty of faculty despised him, but he had ideas and he knew how to articulate them.

    He chooses his words carefully when talking about latter-day administrators, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention. “You can’t let people get their way by intimidation or trespassing,” he said last week. “If a liberal education doesn’t introduce students to ideas that cause them some discomfort, then it has failed.”

    “University presidents have increasingly devoted themselves to maintaining harmony on their campuses and raising money among their alumni to the exclusion of the broader problems of our society,” Summers said. “I think that is a loss.” I do too.

  • Bill Boyer

    Here is the letter Next Yale sent to Yale leaders:
    Dear President Peter Salovey, Dean Jonathan Holloway, and senior members of the Yale administration:
    Next Yale, an alliance of Yale students of color and our allies, have come together to demand that Peter Salovey and the Yale administration implement immediate and lasting policies that will reduce the intolerable racism that students of color experience on campus every day.
    In light of recent events, including the exclusion of black women from a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity party, a letter from a Yale administrator condoning cultural appropriation, and the debate surrounding the renaming of Calhoun College, it should now be obvious that the state of the racial climate on Yale’s campus is unconscionable. These specific incidents reflect an escalation of a long history of racism at Yale, which has disproportionately harmed women of color.
    This harm is quantifiable. Students of color at Yale are acutely aware of the painfully short lives of the Yalies of color that came before us. There is a preponderance of evidence that racist environments, like Yale, harm the physical and mental health of people of color, like us.
    Over the past week, people of color, especially women, outpoured painful experiences of blatant racism at Yale and organized their peers to demonstrate solidarity and resilience. They spent hours meeting with President Salovey and Dean Holloway–as well as other administrators, faculty, and fellow students–in an attempt to ask for help in ensuring their safety and well-being on campus. President Salovey’s first response was to announce that Yale is now a tobacco-free campus. He spent the vast majority of his second email affirming Yale students’ right to free speech.
    Because the administration has been unwilling to promptly address institutional and interpersonal racism at Yale, Next Yale has spent hours organizing, at great expense to our health and grades, to fight for a university at which we feel safe–a university that we would feel happy sending our younger siblings and eventual children to attend.
    In the spirit of the nationwide student mobilization demanding racial equality on campus–particularly at University of Missouri, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Ithaca College–Next Yale intends to hold Yale accountable to its students of color in the public eye. The following demands are small but concrete steps toward this goal;
    These demands supercede those published by the Black Student Alliance at Yale, as they have been collectively crafted by a diverse coalition of students. We expect students of color to be integral partners in the implementation of these demands.
    We expect Peter Salovey to publicly announce his intention to implement these demands by November 18, 2015.
    Next Yale
    1) An ethnic studies distributional requirement for all Yale undergraduates and the immediate promotion of the Ethnicity, Race & Migration program to departmental status
    a. The promotion of Native American Studies, Chicanx & Latinx Studies, Asian American Studies, and African Studies to program status under the ER&M department.
    b. Curricula for classes that satisfy the ethnic studies distributional requirement must be designed by Yale faculty in the aforementioned areas of study
    2) Mental health professionals that are permanently established in each of the four cultural centers with discretionary funds
    a. More mental health professionals of color in Yale Mental Health.
    3) An increase of two million dollars to the current annual operational budget for each cultural center.
    a. Five full-time staff members in each of the cultural centers
    b. Additional emergency and miscellaneous funds from the provost’s office to support the needs of first-generation, low-income, undocumented, and international students
    4) Rename Calhoun College. Name it and the two new residential colleges after people of color.
    a. Abolish the title “master”
    b. Build a monument designed by a Native artist on Cross Campus acknowledging that Yale University was founded on stolen indigenous land.
    5) Immediate removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis from the positions of Master and Associate Master of Silliman College
    a. The development of racial competence and respect training and accountability systems for all Yale affiliates
    b. The inclusion of a question about the racial climate of the classrooms of both teaching fellows and professors in semester evaluations.
    c. Bias reporting system on racial discrimination and an annual report that will be released to the Yale community.
    6) The allocation of resources to support the physical well-being of international, first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students, in these ways, at these times:
    a. Stipends for food and access to residential college kitchens during breaks
    b. Dental and optometry services implemented as part of the Basic Yale Health plan
    c. Eight financial aid consultants who are trained to deal specifically with financial aid application processes of international and undocumented students

  • Chubby Checker

    As we draw ever nearer to Halloween 2016, I would reach out to President Salovey and urge upon him early preparations to trick himself out as a gigantic pair of Oldenberg wax lips to lead the congeries of all his Kampus Krybullies in a rant-filled rage fest cum twist dance contest on the flagstone plaza hard by the Beineke Rare Book Library.

  • Bill Boyer

    It is reported by the Yale Daily News that both of the Christakis’s are leaving Yale for a sabatical, because, as Erika stated: . . . the “campus climate at Yale is not ‘conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems.’”
    So much for free speech.

  • Chip Neville

    Bill, you made a good and important point, that President Salovey’s pusillanimous response to unacceptable protest behavior was making your job as our class’s Chair of YAF Agents much more difficult. But you got lost in the tar pits when you wandered off into “dripping scorn at actions put under the label of ‘politically correct'” to quote Steve Buck. And if this keeps up, our whole class, or at least that part of it which reads this discussion, is going to end up joining the prehistoric beasts in the La Brea Tar Pits. So perhaps we should agree to disagree and go back to discussing your original point, that Yale’s revenue stream is going to suffer from this.

    To begin the discussion, I regret to report that several alumni friends of mine from different classes are upset at Yale’s refusal to uphold the Right of Free Speech. It looks like Yale is in for a rough time in the fundraising department.

    And Bill, thanks for the great job you have done and are doing as our Chair of Agents.


    PS. I’ve been thinking about which beasts we should be if worst comes to worst. I think I’ll be a GIANT SLOTH, because I find myself very fond of naps these days. Perhaps Steve Buck could be a MASTADON, because he likes to go charging at stuff. And yes, the CAPS are for EMPHASIS, not for SHOUTING. Giant Sloths NEVER shout, instead they speak VERY, VERY SLOWLY.

  • Steve Buck

    Thank you Steve, Jim, Roscoe and especially Chip for answering Bill. Bill, it’s more than behavior. If one focuses on that it’s going after the messenger rather than the message, one that Chip puts very well. Please Bill, as Chip says, “try to understand why our black brothers and sisters feel the way they do.”



    • Bill Boyer

      My, my, what assumptions you make. As Theodore Rilke, among others, once said, “We don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are.”

      So, apparently, my capital letters are “screaming,” at least, for those of you that haven’t discovered that the word processing system on this website doesn’t permit boldface or underlines. If one wishes to convey emphasis in this medium, it’s capital letters or nothing. Sorry if any of you gentle souls inferred otherwise.

      Folks, anyone with more than a glancing exposure to the history of humankind knows that we creatures are competitive, warlike and destructive — not, we hope, our better nature, but inescapable nonetheless. The first humans in the islands of what we call New Zealand managed to hunt, kill and eat many species of animals into extinction, including all 7 or 8 of the flightless birds, who previously had no enemies. Who weeps for them? And that was long before the Europeans arrived with their “western values.”

      Many species on our planet go extinct every day. And the stone-agers encountered in a hidden valley in New Guinea in 1943 practiced daily exercises in warfare, cannibalism when necessary and, yes, slavery. Imagine, all that without any knowledge of Jim Crow himself! Slavery continues today, all over the world, not because we haven’t written enough laws to stop it, but because, disagreeably, that’s who we are, we humans. Decry it if you will, but there it is.

      Those of us who wish to twist our hankies and run up to New Haven to wipe the cheeks of the absurd, sniveling protesters who, while basking in the luxury of their alumni-financed educations, demand that Yale become even more comfortable for them, are certainly welcome to display their empathy for the plight of persons of color. [Some of us got over that public foolishness forty years ago and put our beliefs into various, modest, but manageable, private actions.]

      Have any of my critics actually read the full list of demands made by the mob calling itself “Next Yale?” If not, do so before your next riposte. I sent Chris Cory 68 pages of Yale-related documents I explored before writing my piece, but it evidently was too much for our website. I will happy to send it to any who ask. Just respond here.

      In the meantime, please don’t try to dodge the issue of unacceptable behavior by disingenuously enlarging the discussion to incorporate the entire sad history of tribal mistreatments. We have the daily news to describe the vicious hatred of scores of Middle East factions, not even just Sunni vs. Shia. [My son married a lovely Iraqi girl and I have had plenty of exposure to her wonderful tribe and their long-held beliefs.] There are catastrophes enough in your old hunting ground, Steve; we don’t need to manufacture them with a distorted vision of a dystopian Yale.

      And, no, it’s not about skin color. It’s about behavior.

  • Chip Neville

    Bill, let’s stop SCREAMING at each other. The consequences of “America’s original sin of slavery” (I’m quoting Lincoln from memory) are still with us. And while we have done a great deal about it during our great Civil War (at great cost, look at the list of dead from both sides on the wall of the Rotunda at Woolsey Hall), and have made a great deal of progress during Reconstruction and the past 50 years, there is much left to be done. For example, I was helping the UAW organize rent strikes in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago in 1966. Not too long ago, there was a Dateline NBC program featuring Lawndale. The street I used to walk down hadn’t changed, in fact I don’t think the garbage had even been picked up. And just as the gains of Reconstruction were undercut and reversed during the following Jim Crow period (C. Vann Woodward, “The Strange Career of Jim Crow”) so too are the gains in voting rights and civil rights being undercut right now in the 21st century. No wonder many black people feel besieged. And for sure, it’s not about “the tired old white guilt about black slaves” to quote you. It’s about the present still persisting consequences of slavery and the situation we face today.

    Yeah sure, it is about BEHAVIOR, as you point out, and screaming girl’s behavior was pretty bad. But it’s also about how an important part of the American people feel about things. Let’s try to understand why our black brothers and sisters feel the way they do, even if we disagree with the way they express it from time to time.

  • Bill Boyer

    It’s not about skin color or the tired old white guilt about black slaves. It’s about BEHAVIOR, Steve. And the consequences of raising children without teaching them ethical boundaries.

  • Roscoe Sandlin

    The previous comments are quite valid with respect to our larger society; there can hardly be any question about racial injustice. I think the issue Boyer was trying to address, however, is whether Yale should be educating or comforting its students. They are there because of their intellectual excellence (I hope!), not because Yale needs to atone for injustices wrought by others. The university’s obligation is to develop that intellect, challenge students to think, and impart knowledge, things that can be difficult and even offensive. Diversity is laudable, but should not be an end in itself. I will pit my experiences in Africa, legal help for indigents, and working for racial/religious harmony against anyone’s, and the idea of any Yale student needing to feel better pains me. They are the ones who should be comforting others who are not privileged to be at Yale.

  • James A. Wechsler

    I am in complete agreement with Steve Buck and even think he was too reserved. The Yale undergraduate in the video may have been a bit intemperate and also unfair to the college master, but she had a valid complaint, and she was well within the bounds of animated debate. Furthermore, black people are abused by the society, and all of us have allowed the societal structures that make their lives unfair and unreasonably unpleasant. We have been complicit, if only through inaction,and we have done this in spite of the fact that the nation owes black people and American Indians an extra measure of help. As the only two groups who had no say in coming to these shore (yes, the irony with respect to Native Americans is understood), they merit societal advantages rather than societal discrimination and brutalization. I grew up across the street from a police station in a fairly large industrial city. It is horrifying for me to think of the many kids who now grow up thinking that a policeman may shoot them because they feel like it. Yet, most cops join to do good things; most soldiers join to do good; it is the elders who have the narrative wrong. We are now older people; we should edit the narrative to make it right.

  • Steve Howard

    Right on, Steve! Fabulous. I don’t know the supercilious yahoos on the other side, but I am disappointed that a Yale education apparently didn’t teach them to think beyond their own insular surroundings.

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