Smith College President Kathleen McCartney thought she was showing solidarity with students protesting racism and police brutality when she sent a campus-wide email with the subject line, "All Lives Matter." But the anti-racism slogan popular with students is actually the more selective "black lives matter."
Uh oh. Burn the heretic!
Students were furious and offended, according to Fox News:
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, which first covered the story, quoted one Smith sophomore, Cecelia Lim, as saying, "it felt like she was invalidating the experience of black lives."
In response to student backlash, McCartney apologized in another campus-wide email Friday, saying she had made a mistake "despite my best intentions."
She wrote that the problem with the phrase lay in how others had used it.
"I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag "all lives matter" has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against Black people," she wrote.
In her apology e-mail, McCartney also shared some of the student emails she received.
She quoted one student as saying: "It minimizes the anti-blackness of this the current situation; yes, all lives matter, but not all lives are being targeted for police brutality. The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body."
I understand that police brutality is a problem more commonly faced by black people, and in light of recent events, it's absolutely right to focus on reducing racism in law enforcement (though there are certainly other factors at play). Still, asserting that "all lives matter" doesn't really conflict with this, especially when the person expressing that statement was attempting to show support for anti-racist activism. Context matters, too.
According to Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and author of Freedom from Speech, the muzzling of McCartney is just one more example of the stifling grip of political correctness at college campuses. "It's hard to challenge minds while walking on eggshells," he told Fox News.
Unfortunately, as I noted in a recent op-ed for for The Press Enterprise, "more and more teens are learning all the wrong lessons about speech – and believe they have the right not to encounter ideas that might upset their delicate feelings."