Sunday, October 24, 2010

Racism, Migration, Immigration, and U.S. Terrorism of People of Color Nationally and Internationally

Have you noticed that the only harm that happens when WikiLeaks releases secret information about the U.S. government, is to the image of the U.S. government and its military? How, for example, the top secret documents repeatedly show us how corrupt they are, how much they act in grossly selfish, callous, and cruel ways--like using torture techniques that violate international law--but they are never brought to justice? Or how they rape and murder more than they say they do? Or how they can't be honest with the U.S. people about the most basic things--like why they are at war in various parts of the world and against poor and immigrant people? Or how they are a terroristic organisation--terrorising all women, terrorising men of color, and yet government and military officials cannot and will not call what they do and what they are exactly that?

All that follows is from *here*.  


Below is an article by Z writer Bill Fletcher on Race, Xenophobia, and Migration. However, first we’d like to bring your attention to breaking news.

On Friday October 22nd WikiLeaks released the "Iraq War Logs," in what they are calling “the largest classified military leak in history” with 391,832 reports. The logs document the war and occupation in Iraq between 2004-2009 “as told by soldiers in the United States Army.” ZNet is featuring our coverage of this event and so far we have a number of items on the site. These include articles and video by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Josh Stieber who was deployed in Iraq, and whose Infantry Company was shown in the Wikileaks’ “Collateral Murder” video released April this year, and finally, by legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971.

Here are a few items that we have published so far:

We hope you find these useful. Please check the site for more news and analysis over the coming days.

If you are a free member we hope you will consider becoming a sustainer. If you are already a sustainer, we hope you will consider increasing your donation.  

Below is the article by Bill Fletcher:

Thank you,

Race, Racism, Xenophobia and Migration

Friday, October 22, 2010
From October 8-11 in Quito, Ecuador, the 4th World Social Forum on Migration was held. Hundreds of activists and scholars from around the world participated in some of the most interesting plenary sessions and workshops of any conference I have attended.

"The conference was an eye-opening experience. Migration was examined on various levels, including global economic, political, military and environmental factors, all of which influence migration. The International Labor Organization estimates that at least 83 million people are currently migrating, a figure that is bound to grow for many reasons, particularly climate change. Yet in the face of this mass migration of human beings, there are political forces that have taken advantage of the fear that is often produced through demographic changes in order to advance right-wing, irrationalist and xenophobic politics. This, too, was addressed at the conference.

"I was asked to deliver a key note speech to one of the plenary sessions that addressed discrimination and xenophobia. The following is the text of the remarks that I delivered. I hope that you find them of interest and use."

--Bill Fletcher, Jr.


Let me begin by thanking the organizers for inviting me to engage in this discussion.

The nature of the remarks I am to offer—which focus on the issues of race/racism, xenophobia and migration—are more than enough for a multiple week class. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for you, I do not have multiple weeks to deliver it. So, in the next fifteen minutes my hope is to offer an overview of the relationship of these issues and end with some suggestions regarding a manner to rethink global solidarity in the context of migration in the 21st century.

We must begin by establishing, without any ambiguity, that “race” is not a biological or genetic category, but is a political construction. The origin of ALL of humanity is to be found in southern Africa, so in that sense, all of humanity is African.

Yet the notion of race, and the corresponding practice and theory of racism is very real. Prior to both the so-called “Reconquista” in Spain with the Catholicization of Iberia and the purge of the Moors and the Jews in the 15th century, as well as the English occupation and colonization of Ireland in the 16th century, “race,” as we have come to know it, did not exist on planet Earth. While there were certainly religious, tribal, ethnic and imperial conflicts, this was transformed over the course of the end of the 15th century and throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Race came to be associated with so-called inferior and superior peoples, and fundamentally with the occupation of lands and the displacement of populations. Eventually, this came to be associated with skin color, but it is worth noting that in the beginning race did not depend on skin color, with Irish Catholics and Spanish Jews being a case in point. This overall process of racial construction was linked with the development of capitalism and in that context, the notion of race must be understood as an ideological and institutional mechanism for both the suppression of specific populations in perpetuity, as well as the introduction of social control over the working masses as a whole, be they of the suppressed/oppressed population or of the suppressor/oppressor population.

In Latin America, the art form and classification code called the castas, along with the introduction in both North and South America of slavery for life for specific populations—Africans—and marginalization and genocide perpetrated others—Indigenous—had nothing to do with science generally or genetics specifically. Rather, it became a means to divide up populations, turning them against one another through the associated system of racial privileges that tended to be meted out according to how close someone got to being supposedly pure white. “White” was always the reference point for the dominant bloc, even though this did not in any way mean that everyone who was designated by the ruling classes to be “white” was automatically part of the ruling classes. It has also been the case that who is and is not considered white in a specific society is not always self-evident. A classic example from US history in the early 20th century was the debate over whether Armenians were to be considered “white” or not.

In sum, the construction of race was linked, from the beginning, to the rise of capitalism and later imperialism. It was not an add-on or a device that was to be used and thrown away at a whim.

The second piece that is important to grasp about race and migration is that the current global wave of migration, which the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates to be more than 86 million, is fundamentally different from earlier waves during the history of capitalism, i.e., those from the 1500s through the early 1900s. In the waves of migrations that began with the invasion of the Western Hemisphere and the colonization of other parts of what we reference today as the global South, the migrating populations were part of the process of colonization and, as in the cases of the USA, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, to name just four locales, the establishment of formal settler states. These migrating populations, irrespective of whether they were persecuted in their European countries of origin, served as part of a process in the construction of colonial and settler states. Even when they engaged in wars of independence with their European colonial sponsors, these were struggles that were not truly emancipatory, but were struggles to redefine the terms of a particular relationship. To put it another way, most of the independence struggles represented a break with a colonial power—and a renegotiation of the relationship—but not a break with the key social and economic institutions, e.g., slavery in the Western Hemisphere; the Latifundia in Latin America, that were hallmarks of the colonial period. As such, the native populations were never true allies with the insurgents, but were, at best, allies of convenience (example: Native Americans used by both sides in the French and Indian Wars 1754-1763).

It should be noted that there were other migration patterns that did not originate in Europe. Migration from China and Japan to the Western Hemisphere in the mid to late 19th century, for instance, had a different character and particularly in the case of the migration of these Asian populations to the USA, there was intense hostility that was visited upon Asian migrants, a hostility that has lasted for generations. This is worth noting since the European migrants, even when experiencing a hostile reception by prior European migrants, were generally absorbed into the “white bloc” after their ‘credentials’ as white people were established. Asian migrants in the 19th and early through mid-20th centuries faced a very different challenge since they were not accepted into a white bloc. They were placed, depending on the country or territory to which they migrated, into a racial hierarchy but they were not considered white people.

The character of migrations began to change in the early 1900s when populations from colonies proceeded to relocate to the imperial centers. The migration patterns that we are witnessing today are a continuation and acceleration of this process. In the absence of self-determination and with the deformed economic and political structures imposed on colonial and semi-colonial territories, populations began to shift. Separately, there were population shifts between and among colonial and semi-colonial countries. The migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic that began in the 19th century, for instance, is just such an example of the latter, and one that reminds us of the manner in which xenophobia can take on genocidal proportions when a so-called native population is manipulated through fear. Specifically, race was constructed in such a way in the Dominican Republic that there was a generalized denial of the African roots of most of the population and a distain for anyone described as being “black.” The dictator Rafael Trujillo took advantage of this situation to move an anti-Haitian pogrom in 1937 in which more than 20,000 Haitians were murdered, having been blamed by Trujillo as having been the source of the Dominican Republic’s many problems.

Current waves of migration, then, have as their source both a continuation of these factors, plus additional factors, including but not limited to wars, neo-liberal globalization, imperial foreign policies and climate change. Time does not permit me to examine each of these. In this situation, however, we must note, that the ‘racialization’ of migrants has taken on a particular significance.

At the global scale such racialization is found in the broad characterization of European/white vs. non-European/non-white. What this means, particularly in the post-World War II context, is that the “problem” of migration has usually been associated not with the general question of migrants and refugees, but the specific question of the shifting of non-white populations away from their homes of origin to the imperial metropole (usually meaning to the country that was the historical imperial/colonial dominationist force over their particular oppressed nation/territory/people). The non-white migrant has been presented as the ‘evil’ or the problem by the so-called “nativist” forces in the global North on a racial basis. As the theorist Etienne Balibar has pointed out, however, this racial construction is a bit different from traditional racial notions since it does not OVERTLY presume superiority/inferiority (certainly on an alleged genetic basis) but rather articulates an ‘other-ness’ based on cultural incompatibility.

To explain this point for a moment, let us take an example from the United States. As you know, the issue of illegal or undocumented migration has been a major watchword for the political Right since at least the 1970s. In the USA, the face of the undocumented migrant is, in the popular imagination, not color neutral but is brown and black. It is largely—though not exclusively—the face of the Latino despite the fact that undocumented migration has never been restricted to this group. In the 1980s and early 1990s there was significant Irish migration to the USA, an important percentage of which was undocumented. Yet Irish migration to the USA during that period was never defined by right-wing or mainstream sources as being problematic. For all intents and purposes it was ignored. Documented AND undocumented migration from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mexico during that same period, however, was defined as being a problem because the unspoken message was that the Irish can be absorbed into the dominant white bloc in the USA, whereas the Haitians, Dominicans and Mexicans represent an “OTHER” population that is culturally incompatible.

The racialization of migrants, however, is not something that is limited to conflicts in and with the global North. The xenophobic response to migrants in parts of the global South, be it the genocide against Haitians in the 1930s under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic or the more recent attacks on migrants in South Africa by mobs, points to forces largely driven by limited—and often declining—resources that results in toxic competition between populations. This competition becomes racialized where the migrants are portrayed as the force that is incompatible with the needs and existence of the dominant population. They become the “Alien,” so to speak, both literally—that is, in terms of the law—and figuratively—that is, in terms of the popular imagination. This competition for resources, we must note, is not something that exists in the abstract but is a phenomenon related to the rise of neo-liberal globalization and the dramatic polarization of wealth and resources we have witnessed on a world scale. When we have a situation, for instance, where 225 individuals have the accumulated wealth of the bottom 47% of the world’s population it becomes clear that those at the bottom will be struggling to make do with what is left to them by those who have accumulated so much.

With regard the question of migration and the dialectic between the global North and the global South, we must understand that the political Right plays upon what a US Hip Hop/Rap group called “Public Enemy” described once as a fear of a Black planet. When I use the term “Black” here I mean it more in the manner that many of us used it in the 1960s and 1970s, that is a term referencing not just people of more recent African origin but people from the former colonies and semi-colonies. Changing global demographics along with changing economics and politics have become a source of fear and insecurity for much of the global North, specifically, for the so-called white populations. The fundamental source of this insecurity actually is rooted in both the weakening of traditional imperialist relationships along with the rise of neo-liberal globalization and its transformation of both domestic and international conditions for working people. To put it another way, as the living standard for the working population in the global North declines due to the neo-liberal transformation—including the transference of wealth to the rich—the ‘spatial’ violations that are the result of migration come to represent more of a perceived threat to that same population. That “threat” may be in terms of competition for employment in certain sectors, but more often than not it is a psychological threat in which the working populations of the global North come to recognize that imperialism’s impact can no longer be perceived as being solely an external matter but is also manifested internally…that is, the security that once existed is now long-gone.

What are some of the implications of this analysis? Let me suggest the following.

1. A progressive response to migration cannot be grounded on abstract moral principles but must be grounded in an understanding of the historic relationship between the migrating population and the target of migration: The absence of an analysis that provides a context inevitably leads to failure. If one cannot explain the historical roots as to why a migration pattern is unfolding and the relationship of the policies of the migration target to the migrating population, then the migration may not make any sense or can be perceived as the equivalent of an invasion.

2. The destruction of lands, nations and peoples by imperialism, and its current incarnation as neo-liberal globalization is resulting in unprecedented population shifts: The impact of imperialism on land use, climate change, ethnic rivalries, etc., is leading to increasing competition for resources as well as population shifts. In this environment right-wing ideologies, grounded in a racialization of other populations, has advanced in both the global North and global South with the objective of excluding or marginalizing migrant populations, and in some cases, exterminating them altogether.

3. Racialization, as a process, is not only a matter of the perception of the migrating population by the ‘native’ population but also the manner through which the migrating population perceives dynamics within migrating target nation: This particular point is one that could and should be the topic of an entire discussion. The migrating population does not migrate with a blank consciousness, particularly on matters of race. It travels to the target nation with a racial consciousness that is shaped by the ideologies, histories and experiences from the home country. It is also shaped by the perceptions of the racial hierarchy in the target country. Thus, and by way of example, Latinos migrating to the USA from the Dominican Republic, are shaped by the historical antipathy between the Dominican Republic and Haiti; the bizarre racial denial and oppression that was perpetrated by the Trujillo regime; as well as understanding of how white supremacy operates in the USA, including but not limited to which populations have what standing in the US imperial/racial hierarchy.

4. A radical, anti-racist practice must be introduced in order to build solidarity and respond to anti-immigrant and xenophobic ideologies and practices: The racialization of current migration has several objectives. One is the creation of a permanent, marginal, powerless and subordinate working stratum. This is summarized in the notion that migrant workers will do work that ‘native’ workers avoid. The other aspect of the racialization is exactly the opposite, that is, the use of the “Other” as a way of creating a renewal of the dominant white bloc and the uniting behind a right-wing populist agenda. Right-wing populism can sometimes be confused for progressive, popular-democratic politics, if one avoids race. Right-wing populism often seizes on language from the Left in order to strengthen its base among working people from the ‘native’ population. To break this alignment, the racist nature of right-wing populism must be unpacked and exposed and a politics advanced that focuses on the development of an alternative, progressive bloc.

The struggle for justice for migrant workers is directly connected to the struggle against neo-liberal globalization. The destruction of Earth’s resources and the massive accumulation of wealth by a minority of the planet to the disadvantage of the majority, means that billions find themselves in a struggle for survival. One option has become migration, but rather than migration being accepted as the reality of a modern economy, it has brought with it demonization of those who migrate, covert exploitation of the migrant, and the use of the migrant in fundamentally racist ways to serve as scapegoat for the economic injustice being felt by so many.

The struggle for justice for the migrant worker is inextricably connected to the fight for racial justice, and, indeed, the fight for broader social justice. This struggle must be integrated into our various battles and not placed to one side as one additional issue on a long list of issues.

Thank you. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

How A Sexually Violent Culture of Silences Women of all Colors and Sexualities, But Not Ever White Het Men and Their Abuses called "Speech"

If there was a pornographic heterosexist poster of two pornographised women kissing, that would be men's free speech. But if two actual human beings who are female kiss, that must be socially censored.

Actions around stores, on the street, and inside the academy are great places to learn, to study, and to figure out what's going on regarding the racist heteropatriarchal silencing of women by white het men and white het men's institutionalised values. A woman of any color can be arrested for expressing speech in the form of kissing; women and men of color are followed in stores simply for walking up and down aisles in a grocery or clothing store. White-supremacy-trained employees who target darker-skinned people systematically ignore how the light-skinned white people steal without being noticed because they are noticing that a dark-skinned person of color is in the store. A woman of any color can be arrested for tearing up pornography, because while burning a flag is speech, burning pornography isn't, if you're a woman fighting pornography. And not only burning pornography--but just from tearing it up. Pimps' speech mustn't be torn or in any way interrupted--it must flow freely because it is, in large part, white het men's speech. But if women's bodies are torn open by pimps and procurers, and that tearing and torture is photographed or videotaped, THAT'S free speech. Men abusing women in ways that silence them and cost them the right to express themselves freely is FREE SPEECH but only for MEN. You see how this works, don't you?

First, from the feminist archives, this. (Please click on title to link back.)

Art and Action by NIKKI CRAFT

In our society it is illegal, immoral or at least disapproved behavior to burn pornography, the flag, and money because they are symbols of free expression, democracy and capitalism; but to denigrate women in words and pictures is as American as apple pie.

First Amendment Fundamentalists scoff at those who desecrate magazines or books. But, if burning a flag is speech, then burning and ripping pornography and mainstream magazines is speech too, as is pouring blood on a missile.

That Nikki Craft was arrested and incarcerated for over three weeks in Whatcom County Jail after ripping up $11.00 in Esquire magazines illustrates quite nicely that Craft’s right to symbolic, so-called free speech was superseded and limited by Chuck Robinson’s assumed private property rights.

First Amendment Fundamentalists scoff at those who desecrate magazines or books. But, if burning a flag is speech, then ripping pornography is speech too.

"Women, in case you have not noticed, have reached the end of our rope. It's time, don't you think, that you liberal white boys let go of the leash?" -- Nikki Craft

This letter is a response to "Protesters Would Impose Censorship," a guest editorial in the Bellingham Herald (June 4, 1990) by Chuck Robinson.

Next, we have this incident--the interruption of lesbian's speech outside on a city bench. Click on title for the whole story. An excerpt follows below.

Lesbian couple  say they were forced to leave Cameron Village

Caitlin Breedlove

Raleigh, N.C. — A lesbian couple say they were forced to leave Cameron Village in Raleigh after eating lunch because they were kissing in public.

Caitlin Breedlove says she and her girlfriend were sitting on a bench with their arms around each other and had kissed briefly on the cheek when, she says, a security guard approached them, told them that “being affectionate” was “inappropriate” and asked them to leave because "no one wants to see that at Cameron Village." [THE REST OF THE STORY AND A VIDEO ON THIS STORY IS *HERE*.]

The Bastion of Great Dead White Het Male Speech, the Western Academy, is also great place to study many subjects. It is, especially, a great place to study how men's sexual violence against women gets institutionalised and protected. Not because there are Women's Studies courses on the subject any more--there used to be, in some places. But Queer Studies, Men's Studies, and Sexuality Studies have replaced studying what happens specifically to "Women". But lessons are taught after you're assaulted and try and get the administration to deal responsibly with both your own assault and the assaults of other young women on campus by young men. You could get a PhD if you study closely what happens when speaking out is met with "talk to the hand". When speech-as-feminist action meets silence-as-patriarchal institution. Click on the title below to link back.

A culture of silence

The institutional memory of the Yale Student Body is goldfish-sized, at best, but even the freshmen have stopped feigning surprise when the administration—for the first time, headed by a female Dean—fails to take any more than spoken action on cases of sexual harassment and misogynist hate speech on campus. The recent report released by the Sexual Misconduct Committee seems like progress, but as a former Women’s Center Board member, I am skeptical that any “streamlined” solution involving that many different committees would be able to agree on so much as a meeting time. As the latest set of perpetrators explains that they too somehow failed to learn from history’s mistakes, and the Women’s Center tells us for the 1,000,000,000th time that rape is real, I (and, judging by the nearly 2,000 signatures on an online petition asking the University to denounce DKE’s actions, many other alumni) can’t help but wonder why Yale hasn’t managed to get over this hump. Because not only has Yale acutely suffered from sexual harassment, it has also produced some of the most nationally important remedies for fighting it. Looking past the narrow breadth of our time at Yale, the problems have been the same since co-education began. Nationally recognized civil, legal, and educational responses to harassment have been pioneered on this campus for at least thirty years, but Yale, despite having proffered these solutions as proof of good intentions in more than one legal situation, has yet to implement them in good faith.

Let’s begin with the bad: While the Zeta Psi incident and the Pre-Season Scouting Report were both deeply offensive, these are hardly the worst incidents of sexual harassment that the Yale community has faced. They are merely the most recent instances in a continuous string of misbehavior whose roots lie in an entrenched disregard for the dignity, personhood, and autonomy of women.

I note with interest the fact that DKE’s international directors have taken such a firm hand with this particular class of miscreants. Perhaps that is because more young, feminist Yalies work in the media now, and DKE’s shenanigans have provoked condemnation far beyond New Haven. Five years ago, we saw a very different story.

The Women’s Center participates annually in Take Back the Night (TBTN), a nationwide event to commemorate and raise awareness about sexual assault on campus. The hallmark event of TBTN is a shared circle of testimonies by survivors of rape and assault, one of the most moving and upsetting experiences a college student of any gender can have. For TBTN in 2005, the Women’s Center hung a clothesline of t-shirts emblazoned with the voices of survivors on cross-campus in the week leading up to the event. Silencing is perhaps one of the most damaging emotional weapons used against those who have been raped; accordingly, many rape survivor movements, TBTN included, take care to raise the voices of their constituency. The t-shirts gave voice to those who were not yet ready to be seen, but who yearned to be heard.

The morning after survivors and allies hung the shirts on Cross Campus, they found that several were missing. Where did they turn up? On the laughing chests of fraternity members, who saw the stories of rape written by the victims themselves as a funny fashion statement. In the Yale Daily News archives, one plaintive letter to the editor neatly illustrates the impact of the event on campus: “Clothesline T-shirt theft merited greater attention.” But nothing came of it.

Lately, students have been the perpetrators of such public crimes, but in the past, the faculty has been implicated for far worse misconduct. Few know that Yale was actually the birthplace of contemporary sexual harassment law. Yale’s official online statement against Sexual Harassment omits this interesting tidbit of legal history—perhaps because the University itself was named defendant in the landmark case in question, Alexander v. Yale.

In 1977, nine years into Yale’s co-education, sexual harassment by professors was undeniably rampant. Women would speak in knowing code, for instance, about one music teacher who was notorious for raping his tutees after lessons. “I used to play the flute,” they would say to one another in the dining halls. “I don’t anymore.”

Ann Olivarius, BR ’77, LAW ’86, SOM ’86, then a senior, had heard far too many tragic tales: Women who were afraid to go to office hours. Women who were afraid to speak up in class. Women who had turned from the talents they were most passionate about, after their instructors harassed or raped them. Women who were on the brink of suicide. Desperate women. She began collecting their stories and, with the invaluable help of a young law student named Catherine MacKinnon, LAW ’77, who would go on to birth the entire concept of sexual harassment as sex discrimination and revolutionize feminist legal theory, developed a case against Yale.

There were five plaintiffs and Olivarius was the sole woman among them who had not been the victim of an assault (a male professor who had initially filed with ∑the group did not continue to the appeal). Olivarius claimed instead that the time she had spent developing her case and trying to find relief for the other plaintiffs had negatively affected her educational career. At that time, there was no recourse for those wishing to bring a complaint against their harasser. The term “sexual harassment” was brand new and seldom used—in fact, MacKinnon’s definitive work on the subject was still an unpublished manuscript. So instead of asking for financial damages, as is customary today, the plaintiffs requested only that the University set up a means of reporting these crimes—a central grievance procedure so that information about student harassment and assault could be collected in one location, rather than dispersed among the various college deans and masters, who were often ignorant of just how widespread the problem was.

Though the women were accused of trying to expose and exploit the University, they were asking for an in-house remedy, which would allow Yale to keep its public face clean, rather than seeking a legal—and public—redress.

At first, the Yale administration was sympathetic. They had no desire to see young women get hurt, and they thought they could root out the few bad apples among the faculty and set things right. But after reading an onslaught of complaints that implicated not just one or two professors but the permissive culture of the University itself, they back-tracked. Olivarius and her co-complainants were called liars and whores. Faculty wives threatened to tamper with their academic records, and expulsion hung over their heads like a cartoon anvil. Hate-mail and death threats poured into their dorm rooms, as soon-to-be disgraced professors fought tooth and nail to keep the case from going to trial. Olivarius herself was stalked by the aforementioned serial rapist; when she finally turned to the administration official who had alerted her to this danger, he simply advised her to leave New Haven.

Olivarius, MacKinnon et al. continued to press their case. By the time it reached appeal, however, many of the plaintiffs had graduated, so the court decided they no longer had standing to sue. Their complaints were dismissed.

Yale loudly proclaimed its victory. Nevertheless, the trial and appellate courts in Alexander v. Yale agreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that sexual harassment at an educational institution could, with the right plaintiffs, constitute sex discrimination, and thus would be illegal under Title IX in federally-funded educational institutions like Yale. In later years, suits around the country established very clearly that failure to have any grievance procedure for handling sexual harassment claims could make the university liable. The line of argument used by MacKinnon eventually found full validation in the 1986 Supreme Court ruling on Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson.

What the Alexander plaintiffs sought was an idea whose time had come, even at Yale. Though it had won the battle, the University eventually conceded the war, no doubt in part because of how grievously it had suffered in the media. A few years later, Yale established the Executive Committee’s Grievance Board as a means of hearing sexual harassment cases and providing some relief. It also endowed the Women’s Center (yes, that Women’s Center) as a place for women to find support and respite—presumably from the harassers on the faculty who remained unpunished. Schools around the country instituted similar mechanisms, and sexual harassment gained public recognition and repudiation.

Belying the University’s quiet whispers during the trial that she was flunking out, Olivarius went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. Upon her return from Oxford, she was accepted into Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, completing both degrees in three years with high honors.

Thirty years later, an official policy against student-teacher relationships was also instituted.

Armed with this protection, women at Yale seemed primed to wage a real battle against sexual assault. But Ex-Comm has regularly failed to bring justice and, especially, attention to claims of sexual assault on campus, and fear of disciplinary repercussions certainly didn’t prevent the boys of DKE from chanting “No means yes, yes means anal” on Old Campus.

According to some, ignorance and not maliciousness are at the heart of these chants. Perhaps these boys, ordered by their fraternity elders, did not grasp the extent to which their chanting in a courtyard of young women, one in six of whom will be raped in their lifetimes, would be problematic. They did not know about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or that most rapes on campus occur during a woman’s freshman year, with a spike of incidents in the very first weeks and then again, mysteriously, around the Freshman Screw. And that’s probably true. The boys screaming about rape on Old Campus definitely would not have known about any of those things, simply because Yale’s Freshman Orientation and continuing sex education are so egregiously lacking that they would not have learned them.

My freshman year, we had “Sex Signals,” in which two hyperactive actors tried to appeal to us apparently hetero-normative youths by acting out rape on stage in a “humorous” manner. We were supposed to put up a paper sign reading “Stop” when we felt rape was occurring, and it took most of the audience until she was actually screaming and fighting before any violation was perceived. Now there is the film “Relationships: Untitled,” the ugly, gutted remains of a gallant attempt to educate the student body about sexual assault and date rape which, after the administration intervened, not only fails to use the word “rape” or to show any helpful recourse for those who have been assaulted in the film, but fails to punish the rapists depicted, an accurate but hardly enlightening glimpse into the futures of an estimated 90 women in the audience.

As with sexual harassment law, Yale was once in the avant-garde of sexual education and resources. Long before the entirely student-run Yale Sex Week was founded, there was Sex and the Yale Student, an initiative that came from the top. In 1969, Yale’s medical staff realized that after 250-odd years of catering to men, they lacked the capacity to address the needs of the female anatomy. Gynecologist Dr. Philip Sarrel suggested that counseling on sexual health and relations might also be of use to the new classes of co-eds. He worked with his wife, Lorna Sarrel, to supplement basic health resources with couples counseling, family planning clinics, and a blockbuster lecture on sexuality and healthy intimacy given once a semester.

The resulting Sex and the Yale Student booklet was given to all incoming freshmen. Far from the insipid vagaries of “Relationships: Untitled,” the booklet got into the nitty-gritty of sexual politics and health in the ’70s, including an unabashed discussion of then-illegal abortion procedures and a lengthy section on consensual sex and relationships. The introduction trumpeted the benefits of this singular approach: “Among modern universities, Yale is almost unique in its creation of a special department at DUH (the Department of University Health) to deal with the sexual problems and questions of its students…so consider yourself very lucky.” The Sex and the Yale Student booklet was developed into a full-length book that sold over 100,000 copies nationwide. Garnering positive national attention from public health groups and other universities alike, Yale again found itself on the cutting edge of sexual politics.

Why has Yale skittered back from its once progressive stance on sexual education and resources? Perhaps, after the negative press Duke University received (under the leadership of former Yale Provost Richard Brodhead, BR ’68, GRD ’72) following an accusation of rape on campus in 2007, the University thought suppressing conversation and education about sexual assault would suppress the crime itself.

While the Women’s Center Board’s litigious response to the Zeta Psi incident a few years ago may seem to some to be the loudest Yale’s feminists have spoken lately, Naomi Wolf’s, YC ’83, 2004 article in New York magazine “The Silent Treatment,” not to mention Ms. Wolf’s whole career, is still one of the most famous dressing-downs of any educational institutions to date. In 2004, the Rhodes Scholar and Yale graduate wrote a feature piece describing her efforts to face the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of none other than Harold Bloom, who headlines the Humanities department to this day. Wolf had already written about her encounter with him in her critically acclaimed 1997 book, Promiscuities, albeit with the identifying details obscured. While her story is almost 30 years old and her article has been available for the better half of a decade, there are comments on it online as recent as last week—testament to the upsetting strength of her exposé.

In painstaking detail, she describes how she tried to make use of the Grievance Board process that Alexander v. Yale secured for her 25 years earlier. Courted by the Office of Development, she thought she might use her fame to gain some leverage with the administration. And she was quite wrong. Wolf tells a chilling story of self-protective denial coming from every level of the Yale administration. Stonewalled in her attempts to protect women on campus from the threat she had experienced in Bloom, she finally found the media to be her only outlet.

In the conclusion of her article, she admits a kind of ferocious defeat, stating that if another young Yalie came to her with this complaint, she could not in good conscience endorse the pathways that Olivarius and her ilk fought so hard to secure: “Wishing that [then-President of Yale] Bart Giamatti’s beautiful welcoming speech to my class about Yale’s meritocracy were really true, I would, with a heavy heart, advise that young woman, for her own protection, to get a good lawyer.”

The actions of the DKE pledges last Wednesday would have had consequences in the real world. If those statements had been made at a company, rather than a university, they would have been fired, and any woman who worked there would have had a good shot against her negligent employer as well. If these boys end up running companies, running governments, running the world, they will not be allowed to get away with such behavior, though they might fondly remember the days when they could, and dig deep for the chapter, the team, and Yale.

Of course, Yale isn’t a company. The administration often correctly reminds us that a university has other commitments, like free speech. But the law that currently ensures more safety for working women than female undergraduates (in legal theory, if not always in practice) was first conceived and tested here, in Law School classrooms and college dining halls. We should remember that the next time the administration affects a tone of injured surprise and dismay when women’s safety and dignity are compromised. Undergraduates, by nature, don’t have long memories, but institutions do. Yale knows that sexual harassment—and worse—is a campus problem, and has known it for decades. Throughout those same decades, students, faculty, and alumni have regularly suggested solutions and offered help, to no avail. Maybe in 30 years I’ll drop my kids off on Old Campus and tell them to avoid frat parties and not to trust the administration. But we can only hope that before then, much sooner in fact, Dean Mary Miller or one of her successors will finally take the lessons of Yale’s own history to heart.

Alice Buttrick is a 2010 graduate of Jonathan Edwards College. She was the Women’s Center Public Relations Coordinator in 2009.