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#peakedinhighschool
July 7, 2014 6:54 AM   Subscribe

In March, Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson, the first Black woman to be elected to that position, posted a photo to her Instagram account where she depicted what she described to be a “Lawrenceville boi”: white, Republican, and cockily holding a hockey stick. She used the hashtags “#romney2016,” “#confederate,” and “#peakedinhighschool." In response to the backlash from the photo, Maya, who is headed to Wesleyan in the fall, chose to step down.

An Open Letter to Maya Peterson: On the Politics of Humor (by the first black woman president of The Harvard Lampoon)

The dynamics of diversity in schools (video): Melissa Harris-Perry interview with Ms. Peterson

New York Observer: Lawrenceville School Ex-Student President: Martyr or Misquoted College Freshman?

In Defense of Lawrenceville (student blog post): TL:DR, the school president I voted for our senior year broke school rules and was voted out by HER OWN STUDENT COUNCIL.

Clutch Magazine: We are never supposed to be in positions of power.

TheDen: Maya Peterson and the Great American Outrage Machine: "Predictably, it’s also not mentioned, except in the comments, that “she cheated on a test, and when a Sikh student notified the teachers, she bullied him for it. That’s two violations, enough to merit expulsion for any normal student. … Lawrenceville had no problem expelling the sons of wealthy benefactors when they misbehaved, and my class had several “white males” who got themselves kicked out for pedestrian smoking and drinking. Maya only lost a spot on the student council, and walked to receive her diploma in front of her friends and family.”

Racalicious: "But her diversity initiatives were not widely welcomed; a push for gender neutral bathrooms was particularly controversial. And Peterson herself was viewed with suspicion by a significant number of students, mostly white and male, who opposed her candidacy from the start."

The Lawrenceville School was founded in 1810, and admitted its first Black students 50 years ago. The first women enrolled in 1987.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (314 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
i've seen the photo - this is pretty damned weak for some kind of "racist" stereotyping - if this is the kind of thing that outrages white prep-school students, they're trying way too hard to be outraged
posted by pyramid termite at 7:04 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


Maybe it not all that terribly racist but it's still a dick move to treat your fellow students like that.
posted by ian1977 at 7:09 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


...if this is the kind of thing that outrages white prep-school students, they're trying way too hard to be outraged

I suppose. On the other hand, this really was a pretty stupid thing to do as sitting Student Body President.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Wow. No one's coming out looking good in this.

Incidentally, Jim Rash went to Lawrenceville, and I think we need to know what Dean Pelton would say about this.
posted by Etrigan at 7:11 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


"It's a tempest in a deanpot!"
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:12 AM on July 7 [44 favorites]


She used the hashtags “#romney2016,” “#confederate,” and “#peakedinhighschool."

But that's not all. The student blog post above notes she also:
...mentioned in the hashtags a specific dorm on campus (the Cleve house). And also featured a rather misogynistic hashtag of #wherearethepucksluts.
posted by Jahaza at 7:13 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I suppose. On the other hand, this really was a pretty stupid thing to do as sitting Student Body President.

The rules change when you become the Establishment...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:14 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


If the truth hurts, it's not the fault of the person telling the truth, is it?
posted by mikelieman at 7:14 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


I don't know all the details of the circumstances, and my position may change later, but I definitely have opinions about rich white males, so #teammayapeterson.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:20 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


Not all Lawrenceville boiz...
posted by Huck500 at 7:21 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


For those like me who are not familiar with all of the prep schools in the USA, it appears we are talking about The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I'm sitting in Lawrenceville, GA right now, and I was really confused.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:21 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Oops, sorry hydropsyche! I'm a NJ native, and that never occurred to me. (But some of the links are to Lawrenceville's page)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on July 7


If high school students could wait until graduating college before employing the #peakedinhighschool tag maybe that would be OK.
posted by shothotbot at 7:28 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'm with Faint of Butt. I know a few people who went there, and while my sample is hardly scientific, I'd say she (excepting Huey Lewis perhaps) hit the nail on the head.
posted by jalexei at 7:32 AM on July 7


I'd say she (excepting Huey Lewis perhaps) hit the nail on the head.

People rarely appreciate it when you're mocking them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


And, for whatever it's worth, I'm pretty sure that Lawrenceville is among, (if not*the*) whitest and wealthiest prep schools in NJ. Tuition last year was $53,320.

There are also some uncomfortable parallels here to the Duke Lacrosse scandal from a few years ago -- the team drew the vast majority of its talent from a small group of prep schools in the Northeast (including Lawrenceville): Stereotypes are bad, and I'm sure that there are plenty of great folks studying and working at Lawrenceville. But, holy shit, prep schools sure seem like a microcosm for everything wrong with American culture...
posted by schmod at 7:42 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


FWIW, via the Buzzfeed article, 55% of 815 students were Caucasian in 2014.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:46 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


If Maya Peterson intends to pursue a career in politics, I think she has learned a valuable lesson:

Convince a proxy to kick up the shitstorm, wait a bit to see how the sides sort themselves out, then join the winning side (which may in fact be the silent majority on the sidelines wishing folks would just simmer the fuck down once in a while.)

In any case, the key part is to avoid kicking up the shit yourself. It's dirty, and it's not easy to clean off your shoes afterward.
posted by notyou at 7:47 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Weird that I visited this school as a guest in 2010 to celebrate their bicentennial with my biracial college roommate, an alumnus. I'll have to ask him for his take on the situation.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:53 AM on July 7


From what I've read, it seems, politely put, wrongheaded for Peterson to do that once she'd become student body president. If she'd done it while out of "power," then she'd have just been a student expressing her opposition or criticism or view. Having been elected to represent the students in her class, however, then using that bully pulpit to post unfunny crap like this is petty and irresponsible, irrespective of the "truth" of the statement.
posted by the sobsister at 7:57 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I dunno. On the one hand, if you're student body president, you shouldn't mock your fellow students. On the other hand, it certainly sounds like she was mocking a specific group of students who were waging a campaign against her, which involved alleging that the school rigged the election and she hadn't legitimately won, anonymously circulating photos of her smoking pot (which I wager many, many Lawrenceville students have done), fabricating and circulating a fake racist tweet that she was alleged to have made, and secretly taking and circulating half-naked photos of her. If people were doing that to me, I might post pissed-off, defiant things on Instagram, too.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:57 AM on July 7 [64 favorites]


The Toast.
posted by kenko at 8:03 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


Oh god let loose the dogs of "Lighten Up Nancy" and the four horsemen of "Can't You People Take A Joke?"

This picture was harmless and inoffensive and anyone who got upset by it is a pencil-neck wuss. [Feels so good to say that to preppie dudes for once it really does]

Maya is awesome and hopefully will be actually president one day.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:04 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


[He says he doesn't think this was really that big of a deal]
posted by oceanjesse at 8:12 AM on July 7


There are also some uncomfortable parallels here to the Duke Lacrosse scandal from a few years ago -- the team drew the vast majority of its talent from a small group of prep schools in the Northeast (including Lawrenceville):

This isn't actually true. And there are very very real differences between the sort of kids (and their family backgrounds) who go to Lawrenceville and who go to Chaminade and Delbarton.
posted by JPD at 8:17 AM on July 7


And yeah - the white dudes of privilege - of which I am most certainly one - need to not get upset about this. Although the "Puck Bunny" thing kind of sucks too.
posted by JPD at 8:18 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


This was supposed to be funny? And I don't mean that in a "she shouldn't have done that" kinda way, it's just not a really good parody. If you're ending your prep school political career, at least do it with something worth it. Come on, you're in New Jersey, go out in a blaze of glory.
posted by pseudocode at 8:20 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


She should have been expelled for using the word "boi". If a "prep" school is to have any value, it should have prepared students to not write like you are a 12 year old.

As to the rest of it, enough ugliness to go around for all, but not entirely unique or noteworthy among the age demographic.
posted by dios at 8:23 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I feel like if this had been "Mark Peterson", a white male student who posted a mocking "preppie" photo after being harassed by the good ol' boy network at school, this wouldn't be something we'd be discussing at a national level.
posted by kagredon at 8:30 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


So I lived in Lawrenceville (NJ) for a couple of years. I am totally not surprised by this story.

I grew up in Houston and I have relatives who were raised in east Texas (the part of the state most like the old South) during Jim Crow. My (private) high school mascot was Johnny Reb, since changed. But Lawrenceville NJ was the most racist area I've ever lived in, and the most whitebread even counting that couple of years I spent in a 50-person village in North Yorkshire. I heard people in Lawrenceville say racist shit that would never fly in Texas.

I guess because I'm white and have a Texas accent, people assumed I was 1. conservative and 2. racist as hell, and felt very comfortable talking about how black people in Trenton (5 miles down the road) should be grateful to the white Republicans from the burbs who showed up to to poll watch to a white person they'd just met. I was boggled by the sheer whiteness of the area--just no black folks in the restaurants and malls--until I realized there were actually cameras on the border between Trenton and Lawrence Township that seemed to be for the purpose of keeping Trenton people (mostly black) out. Etc. etc. etc. And if that's what it was like for someone not in the rarefied air of people who go to Expensive Prep Central, I can only imagine what it's like in the actual school, which sounds whiter than my prep school in Texas (pretty white).

My prep school, by the way, had a "dress like [rival school] day" where we all dressed in clothes like that. But I guess that was okay because we were mostly white.

I can only imagine what kind of horrific shit Maya Peterson had to put up with at the school. My sympathies are with her, not the humorless prepsters. (How many Lawrenceville bois does it take to change a light bulb? THAT'S NOT FUNNY!)
posted by immlass at 8:30 AM on July 7 [31 favorites]


Giving people a pass on racism because of the color of their skin is, well, you know what.
posted by Thing at 8:33 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Those students said that they had been called things like “Negro amigo” or “n–ger.” They said white male students had called black students on opposing basketball teams “Trayvon,” apparently after the unarmed black, 17-year-old who was killed in Florida in February 2012, among other controversies.

But wearing a Yale sweatshirt is offensive.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:33 AM on July 7 [32 favorites]


I think it's important to note that Lawrenceville is nestled right between Trenton and Princeton, as well. That entire area is a hotbed for racial tension.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Well, this is one way to ensure that no black kid at that school ever gets voted class president again.

True or not, funny or not, it was a thoughtless, unnecessary act that will have repercussions to more than just her.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:40 AM on July 7


also why is there a white supremacist website in this FPP
posted by kagredon at 8:43 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Well, this is one way to ensure that no black kid at that school ever gets voted class president again.

If, in the future, a black person is to run, and the student body refuses to vote for them because they are convinced that black people will necessarily dress up like them in parodic online photos, then the school has bigger issues than a Lawrenceville boi comic selfie.
posted by maxsparber at 8:45 AM on July 7 [28 favorites]


also why is there a white supremacist website in this FPP

Which link are you referring to?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on July 7


maxsparber: If, in the future, a black person is to run, and the student body refuses to vote for them because they are convinced that black people will necessarily dress up like them in parodic online photos, then the school has bigger issues than a Lawrenceville boi comic selfie.

Because people always make rational voting decisions? Particularly high schoolers?

I'm not saying it's right, but if Obama had put on a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt and a Confederate Flag bandana and posted a photo with #stupidcracker hashtags, you can bet we'd never have a black president again.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:50 AM on July 7


Okay, hold up, what about this from the Racialicious article:

Peterson was frustrated that the school didn’t investigate her anonymous attackers, even after another scary incident in the winter, when someone sent an email to the freshman class containing photos of Peterson half naked in her room. Peterson had no idea where the sender had gotten those photos, she said, and the administration, while sympathetic, didn’t either — or didn’t tell her if they did.

If true, that means that someone was spying on her in a really scary, dangerous way - something that is extra damaging to gender non-conforming and queer people.

And yet "black queer female student body president of wealthy prep school is spied on and half-naked pictures are circulated, and nothing is done about it" wasn't the story; the story is "she takes a maybe non-strategic photo of herself, circulates it herself and is maybe a little bit more angrily direct than is prudent, shitstorm ensues".

Frankly, this girl has been undergoing some kind of bizarre Cheese Stands Alone-style prep school harassment campaign, and nobody seems to have given a crap about that, so I categorically refuse to get upset about some kind of slightly ill-advised instagram.
posted by Frowner at 8:50 AM on July 7 [87 favorites]


"Whether or not I am to be considered right or wrong (if that can be determined) is not what’s important. I am not and will never be what’s important in this conversation. What’s important is the reality that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and other forms of discrimination are REAL and IMPORTANT. "

Sheesh, she really does fit well into an expensive prep school. "Hey, why are these articles about me talking about me when we could be talking about, y'know, something else. That I can talk about."

Between the cheating, the nastiness towards the Sikh student, the misogyny, and the weird targeting of one particular dorm (which is precisely the kind of thing you're not supposed to do as president), she seems to have totally deserved to lose her seat. Obviously, this shouldn't have repurcussions for other black students, most of whom are doubtless much savvier than this one rich kid. But it makes Buzzfeed, Clutch, and Racialicious look bad, as it becomes clear that they all just passed on what their sources told them without doing any actual shoe-leather reporting.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:51 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


EVERYONE HERE IS MISSING THE MOST ALARMING/CRAZY/WTF POINT IN THE WHOLE FPP!!!

The first women enrolled in 1987.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:52 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


"nastiness toward Sikh student" = determined to be faked tweets, not anything she did. (See the Racialicious article.)
posted by Frowner at 8:53 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


Which link are you referring to?

Theden.tv . I'm guessing that from the way it's camel-capsed in the post, roomthreeseventeen was unaware of its particular, uh, "perspective", but their about page makes it pretty unambiguous.
posted by kagredon at 8:54 AM on July 7


Sorry, I didn't realize, kagredon. I was just looking for any link that had a different point.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:55 AM on July 7


but I guess they already succeeded in taking an allegation from a single comment on another site, based in part on already discredited information, and making it a major focus in this thread, so whatever
posted by kagredon at 8:55 AM on July 7


also, the source for cheating=anonymous online commenters
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:56 AM on July 7


Well, this is one way to ensure that no black kid at that school ever gets voted class president again.

I do not agree with this pessimistic assessment, but there is something to be learned from this unfortunate misstep. Teenagers are the naïve and narcissistic wing of the human race – they are the ones who fight tooth and nail to wear those useless and meaningless paper crowns, but since they do, there is an underlying understanding and logic behind them – the paper crown is the symbol that you have *arrived* and now it is time to *deliver*. As silly as the paper crown is, it is not to be misused as a court jester’s hat, and in this case, that is precisely what happened. That is not the behaviour of a leader, but of an underling who tweaks her nose at her bosses because the boss has more power over her and she uses Saul Alinksy’s subversive tactics to undermine them.

There were better ways to do something constructive if that segment of the student body population were causing trouble for other students -- it is what a leader needs to do -- and promises to do when vying for that crown in the first place...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:57 AM on July 7


I don't know if this is kosher for FPPs, but you can always copy/paste into DoNotLink (or similar sites if they exist) if you don't want to give them search engine cred.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:58 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


She should have been expelled for the cheating and bullying, if it's true. The Instagram thing is stupid.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:58 AM on July 7


But it makes Buzzfeed, Clutch, and Racialicious look bad, as it becomes clear that they all just passed on what their sources told them without doing any actual shoe-leather reporting.

Lol at you posting this based on lies passed on by a white supremacist website which are pointed out in the other articles.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on July 7 [25 favorites]


EVERYONE HERE IS MISSING THE MOST ALARMING/CRAZY/WTF POINT IN THE WHOLE FPP!!!

The first women enrolled in 1987.
I don't think that's particularly alarming. It's a previously-all-male boarding school that at some point went co-ed. It sounds pretty grim in a lot of other ways, but that's not shocking.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:59 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


You know what would've been just as funny?1

If, say, some white Lawrenceville student had taken an equivalently insensitive photograph of themselves holding (for example) a fried chicken drumstick and a slice of watermelon, and publicized it with hashtags like: #OBAMA4EVA #YESFREELUNCHES #ONGEDTRACK.

Why is this young woman being given a pass in some corners for her poor judgement? Is it because she's black and the intended targets of her derision were white?

I dunno; that just sounds a little racist to me.

---
  1. Which is to say "not at all."

posted by The Confessor at 8:59 AM on July 7


If, say, some white Lawrenceville student had taken an equivalently insensitive photograph of themselves holding (for example) a fried chicken drumstick and a slice of watermelon, and publicized it with hashtags like: #OBAMA4EVA #YESFREELUNCHES #ONGEDTRACK.

I find it really particularly interesting that you are successfully able to identify racialized stereotypes that have been systematically deployed to hurt an entire group of people, and yet have no awareness that "prep school boy" is not the same thing.
posted by kagredon at 9:01 AM on July 7 [40 favorites]


also, the source for cheating=anonymous online commenters

Not so anonymous, really.
posted by 0 at 9:02 AM on July 7


"Between the cheating, the nastiness towards the Sikh student, the misogyny, and the weird targeting of one particular dorm (which is precisely the kind of thing you're not supposed to do as president), she seems to have totally deserved to lose her seat."

Man, what strange standards of proof you continually design in order to dismiss, diminish and deny sexism and racism. The cheating is an unconfirmed allegation from Buzzfeed comments, the "nastiness towards the Sikh student" was fabricated, the "misogyny" is the tenuous and ironic "#wherearethepucksluts," and the dorm may or may not have been relevant to the photo.

Because of that, she deserves to lose her seat while you cluck about journalistic integrity?
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Yeah, 0, I'm not really interested in vetting the reliability of a high school student commenting on a Buzzfeed article, because (1) I have a job already and (2) that job isn't "journalist", so I feel like it'd be a little creepy, but if you want to volunteer yourself or a journalist friend to do that work, knock yourself out.
posted by kagredon at 9:04 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The alleged bullying was already discounted by no less an official than the Dean of Students herself as a harassment campaign:
In addition to the photos, Thomas also revealed that throughout the year, she has received more anonymous information that implied that Peterson “sent tweets that were harassing another student and that she was using drugs on campus.” After investigation, it was concluded that the tweets were in fact completely fabricated, the information included was false, and both were created simply to target Peterson. It is unclear whether or not the same person is responsible for both the anonymously sent photos and the fake tweets.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:04 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


"If, say, some white Lawrenceville student had taken an equivalently insensitive photograph of themselves holding (for example) a fried chicken drumstick and a slice of watermelon, and publicized it with hashtags like: #OBAMA4EVA #YESFREELUNCHES #ONGEDTRACK.

Why is this young woman being given a pass in some corners for her poor judgement? Is it because she's black and the intended targets of her derision were white?

I dunno; that just sounds a little racist to me.
"

Probably because you have a myopic view of racism and are confused about the historical context.

For example, how many white people have been kept out of positions of power based on the assumption that they went to Yale? I mean, outside of Boston?

But to answer your questions: 1) Because it was fairly anodyne mocking of people with power, and 2) no, and that's a pretty dumb suggestion unless you're being disingenuous on purpose.
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on July 7 [30 favorites]


kagredon, I think The Confessor's point is that the racial stereotype and the "prep school boy" stereotype are equally hurtful, and so kagredon don't understand why some people are excusing her behavior, when they probably wouldn't do so if the colors were switched.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:07 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I think The Confessor's point is that the racial stereotype and the "prep school boy" stereotype are equally hurtful,

Surely there is a more charitable reading?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:08 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


kagredon, I think The Confessor's point is that the racial stereotype and the "prep school boy" stereotype are equally hurtful

Oh, I found the problem! That "point" is total bullshit.
posted by kagredon at 9:08 AM on July 7 [38 favorites]


I think The Confessor's point is that the racial stereotype and the "prep school boy" stereotype are equally hurtful

Seriously?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:09 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


I guess I don't see what's supposed to be the gravamen of this story. It seems pretty clear that a student president oughtn't to post instagram pictures mocking portions of the student body, so it seems reasonable that she was asked to step down as student president: a catastrophe which will mean precisely nothing in her future career. So.....what? It sounds like the administration behaved reasonably. It's hardly an interesting story that a young person did something slightly foolish but entirely forgivable and had to face minor ceremonial consequences for it (it's not like she was expelled or denied the opportunity to graduate or something). Nor does it seem all that interesting that some stupid people are saying stupid stuff about it on the internet.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Oops - kagredon, I misinterpreted your post. And everyone, I'm not endorsing the proposition that white and black stereotypes are equally hurtful - just explaining what I thought The Confessor was saying.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:12 AM on July 7


"I think The Confessor's point is that the racial stereotype and the "prep school boy" stereotype are equally hurtful"

If that was his point, I would hope that reading it phrased as such will help him realize how obliviously racist it was; a more dramatic analogy would be saying that indentured servitude and slavery were equally damaging.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying it's right, but if Obama had put on a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt and a Confederate Flag bandana and posted a photo with #stupidcracker hashtags, you can bet we'd never have a black president again.

Yeah, I just don't think this is true. I mean, plenty of black politicians have already embarrassed themselves and Obama was elected twice. There are some people out there who hold an entire race corporately responsible for the actions of one person, but they don't seem to be the majority.
posted by maxsparber at 9:12 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


The bits about the program of harassment of her that the school doesn't seem to have done much about is pretty disturbing.
posted by tavella at 9:16 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


Hmm, yeah, if the bullying of the Sikh student and the cheating allegations are untrue, that changes things quite a bit. If only some "news" site bothered to do investigative reporting, rather than quoting some sources and calling it a day.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:25 AM on July 7


but if Obama had put on a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt

Skynyrd were anti-racist (listen) and played benefits for Jimmy Carter.
/pet peeve

(and this is stupid high school bullshit tempest in a teapot stuff)
posted by jonmc at 9:26 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


But wearing a Yale sweatshirt is offensive.

well yeah, i mean, have you ever met a yalie? quite ghastly.
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


If only some "news" site bothered to do investigative reporting, rather than quoting some sources and calling it a day.

This is pretty ironic, given that you were finger-wagging at the sources that did report on the fake tweets and only credited the one that cribbed from a buzzfeed comment.
posted by kagredon at 9:29 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


If only some "news" site bothered to do investigative reporting, rather than quoting some sources and calling it a day.

You do know that there is an overtly white supremacist website linked the in FPP? Yet that gets none of your ire, only places like Racialicious (which isn't a news site).
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:29 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I think the cheating allegations were from her freshman year and had already been addressed by the school. If they had been disqualifying, they should have disqualified her before she ran.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:30 AM on July 7


I think the bullying and cheating allegations are red herrings. The picture alone (justified or otherwise) is an indication of poor judgment.

[Yes, all teenagers exhibit poor judgment from time to time. Back in my day (wheeze), we didn't have social networks to advertise all of our poor judgment to the rest of the world.]
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:30 AM on July 7


The prestigious Lawrenceville School, which operates a two-strike policy for expulsion, gave Maya Peterson a major strike freshman year for cyber-bullying a Sikh student.
--NY Observer
posted by 0 at 9:31 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest, I've already said I didn't know it was a supremacist website. The mods can take that down if they want to.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:31 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Wait a second. People are showing an impressive amount of skepticism about the allegation she harassed others or posted something offensive about a Sikh student. I don't know if she did or didn't. But what I do is that I'm not tripping over myself to come to her defense when this young lady clearly has no qualms at posting offensive pictures to Twitter as evidenced by the one in the main link (and doing knowingly and intentionally inflammatory things like the black power thing in the yearbook). We have at least some evidence that she is the type of person who likes to be brash and stir the pot. That evidence certainly does not make the other allegations true. They may or may not be true. But that evidence certainly doesn't suggest that we should be skeptical of the other allegations.

The reality is that kids of this age are generally little shits. My guess is that in the insular little world of a prep school, the general shittiness of kids of this age becomes magnified. That's why I am with yoink about what the gravamen is? All I get out of this is that I would never send my children to a prep school (a fact of which I was already aware). I mean, who among us didn't really know that this is the way these places were anyhow? Throwing a SJW who gets joy in "speaking truth to power"/rocking the boat into a place that is going to have extreme "traditionalism" is going to result in ugliness; add in the ages and the internet/social media, and it just gets worse.

I think everyone involved in the whole school comes off smelling bad.
posted by dios at 9:33 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


This sounds like a lot of colleges. You have your rich boola-boola types and your rich radical types all annoying everyone. I didn't like college.
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


klangklangston

So if I've parsed your philosophy correctly, given the historical context of pervasive white-on-black racism, black-on-white racism -- where it can't be blithely explained away as a function of some other dynamic1 -- is objectively no big deal.

Good to know.

---
  1. Seriously, favoring her preppie classmates with a "confederate" hashtag, and Maya's actions have nothing to do with racism?
posted by The Confessor at 9:36 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


R317, no one is calling you out for posting a shitty website with which you were unfamiliar, they're citing it to point out a different commenter's hypocrisy.
posted by elizardbits at 9:37 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


But that evidence certainly doesn't suggest that we should be skeptical of the other allegations.

Yes it does. As zombieflanders posted upthread:

"The alleged bullying was already discounted by no less an official than the Dean of Students herself as a harassment campaign:

.... After investigation, it was concluded that the tweets were in fact completely fabricated, the information included was false, and both were created simply to target Peterson...."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:37 AM on July 7


what elizardbits said
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:37 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I mean, who among us didn't really know that this is the way these places were anyhow?

People can still be pissed off about racism even if they already knew that racism existed.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:37 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


and doing knowingly and intentionally inflammatory things like the black power thing in the yearbook

is this 1968?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 AM on July 7 [31 favorites]


If she wasn't a teenager, I would have such a crush on her.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:38 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


We have at least some evidence that she is the type of person who likes to be brash and stir the pot.

Yeah, where the hell does that "young lady" get off, anyway?
posted by blucevalo at 9:41 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Guys. Seriously. This is a school where the basketball team referred to black players of opposing teams as 'Trayvons.' Students engaged in a long harassment campaign against Peterson, taking half-naked photos of her without her permission and distributing them, among other things, and in retaliation she posted a photo of herself wearing a Yale sweatshirt and holding a hockey stick and that merits 'guys everyone looks bad in this situation!' and 'I heard a discredited rumor she did a bad thing so that is what I choose to focus on' responses?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:42 AM on July 7 [43 favorites]


is this 1968?

I guess she was guilty of being too black and too proud?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:43 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


shakespeherian, if you watch the video, I think it's interesting that she says she absolutely loves the school and would encourage any young Black woman to go there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:45 AM on July 7


and doing knowingly and intentionally inflammatory things like the black power thing in the yearbook

is this 1968?


No, it's not. That's precisely the point. Because it is not 1968, doing it in the yearbook was nothing more than an attempt to be inflammatory and stir the pot. It had no real social purpose other than to cause a stir.

One can read the Buzzfeed piece and the New York Observer piece and get a pretty good sense that this is the type of person who likes being controversial.
posted by dios at 9:45 AM on July 7


I, for one, am offended by her incorrect use of boi.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:45 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


The level of logical acrobatics to defend/convict this woman's casual joke that may or may not be racist maybe perhaps in context 50% white prep school Sikh cheating omg wtf BBQ is astounding.

She fucked up, maybe (?). She's 17/18, let it go.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:46 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


she is the type of person who likes to be brash and stir the pot

Is this how we say uppity in 2014?
posted by elizardbits at 9:46 AM on July 7 [71 favorites]


No, it's not. That's precisely the point. Because it is not 1968, doing it in the yearbook was nothing more than an attempt to be inflammatory and stir the pot. It had no real social purpose other than to cause a stir.

Because we totally fixed all that racism, amirite?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:46 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


One can read the Buzzfeed piece and the New York Observer piece and get a pretty good sense that this is the type of person who likes being controversial.

But the basketball team who refers to black players as 'Trayvons' are doing what?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:47 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


I can't believe this was in any way a scandal, and if the culture of Lawrenceville is anything like that of the boarding school I attended (which I'm sure it is), completely absurd for these bros to pretend they feel victimized by this. I went to St. Paul's and I remember at least one, if not several, "Pimps and Hos" themed parties, a talk given by the black Dean of Students where she had to remind the student body that using the word "ghetto" to refer to something being shitty was offensive, and so on and so forth. Add to that the glee with which the wealthiest, preppiest students approached their own attempts at self-caricature as privileged-and-loving-it, and I think their reaction is nothing more than hypocrisy.
posted by Aubergine at 9:48 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


The open letter from Alexis Wilkinson is good, straight to the point and coming from someone who seems fairly uniquely qualified to comment.
posted by StopMakingSense at 9:48 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: Guys. Seriously. This is a school where the basketball team referred to black players of opposing teams as 'Trayvons.' Students engaged in a long harassment campaign against Peterson, taking half-naked photos of her without her permission and distributing them, among other things, and in retaliation she posted a photo of herself wearing a Yale sweatshirt and holding a hockey stick and that merits 'guys everyone looks bad in this situation!' and 'I heard a discredited rumor she did a bad thing so that is what I choose to focus on' responses?

Exactly. And because she did something stupid as a reaction, the national news story is now about her stupid decision, rather than about her triumph as the first black class president of this school in the face of harassment and racism. If there's one thing we can all learn from this, it's the importance of keeping control of one's narrative.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:49 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Jeesh, so now NYO (which I presume does fact-check) is saying the bullying allegations are true. But the Dean of Students says they aren't? Or that something else isn't? Once again, I would really like a serious journalistic outlet with fact-checkers to cover this.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:49 AM on July 7


NYO ... is saying the bullying allegations are true. But the Dean of Students says they aren't?

I interpreted this as "something happened freshman year" but the alleged tweets 2-3 years later were fabricated.
posted by 0 at 9:54 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


In addition to the photos, Thomas also revealed that throughout the year, she has received more anonymous information that implied that Peterson “sent tweets that were harassing another student and that she was using drugs on campus.” After investigation, it was concluded that the tweets were in fact completely fabricated, the information included was false, and both were created simply to target Peterson. It is unclear whether or not the same person is responsible for both the anonymously sent photos and the fake tweets.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:54 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Seriously, favoring her preppie classmates with a "confederate" hashtag, and Maya's actions have nothing to do with racism?

The flag's a racist symbol. Calling it out isn't racist. She was talking about students who hang confederate flags: "Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians," Peterson told BuzzFeed. "If that's a large portion of the school's male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before."
posted by qi at 9:56 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


Alright, I'm done with this thread. I made abundantly clear that I think her school deserves derision. I was clear that I wouldn't send my kids to such a disgusting place.

But judging by the comments I have received, apparently acknowledging that there may be validity to any criticism to this saint here is sexist or racist or supporting institutional discrimination. You'd think I said something positive about the school which I explicitly did not and is nothing more than bad faith on the part of those who implied as much.

That kind of bullshit bad faith ruins discussions and Metafilter. Pathetic.
posted by dios at 9:56 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


so now NYO (which I presume does fact-check) is saying the bullying allegations are true. But the Dean of Students says they aren't?

I think that 'fact checking' at this point is pointless. It's devolved into a Rorschach test for racial attitudes. If you tend towards one set of beliefs, then A, B, C. If you have a different set of beliefs, then maybe D, E, and F.

It seems to be the beneficiaries of centuries of White Privilege are thinking "If I can't have my White Privilege anymore than there sure as hell ain't going to be any Black Privilege"...
posted by mikelieman at 9:56 AM on July 7


Because it is not 1968, doing it in the yearbook was nothing more than an attempt to be inflammatory and stir the pot.

well, by the late 70s, it was considered to be more like a solidarity/power to the people salute and white people didn't have any problem giving it or giving it in response to black people giving it

i was around then, i remember it quite well
posted by pyramid termite at 9:56 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


Because we totally fixed all that racism, amirite?

This would all be relevant if she'd been asked to step down as class president because of the black power thing. She wasn't. She was asked to step down as president because of the Instagram photo, which was clearly an inappropriate thing for a class president to do.

Some of her fellow students are asshats, clearly. Boo those asshat fellow students. But I just don't see how this story interestingly or meaningfully engages with the very serious issues people are dragging to it.

There might be an interesting story to tell about the administration failing to adequately investigate the anonymous harassment campaign against her--but none of the links in the FPP tell us enough about that for us to know if they did all they could and the harasser(s) simply covered his/her/their tracks cleverly or not. There's no doubt that whoever did that harassing is vile scum--but there's equally no doubt that "well they started it" is no excuse for a class president to lash out at a whole sector of the student body. In terms of the actual incident that has brought this onto Metafilter the administration seems to have responded entirely appropriately and Maya Peterson seems to have taken her lumps with reasonable graciousness. Again: what is the specific issue in all this that we're supposed to be up in arms about? The fact that there are some unknown number of racist dickheads at a prestigious prep school whose student body voted to elect a black lesbian student as their Class President?
posted by yoink at 9:57 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I interpreted this as "something happened freshman year" but the alleged tweets 2-3 years later were fabricated.

yeah I think they were talking about two separate incidences.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:57 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


wow there sure are a disappointing amount of people who don't understand what structural racism is

and a disappointing number of them are mefites
posted by NoraReed at 10:02 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


From the student election results -76% of female students voted for Maya while 69% of males voted for her rival. Presidential Election 2016 here we come!
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:04 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


wow there sure are a disappointing amount of people who don't understand what structural racism is

Whatever else structural racism is or isn't, it's not a class president being asked to stand down after posting an Instagram photo indiscriminately mocking an entire sector of the student body.
posted by yoink at 10:05 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


uh well when a popular argument is that she's being racist by pointing out (and mocking) the racism of her classmates, yeah, that is structural racism
posted by NoraReed at 10:07 AM on July 7 [29 favorites]


uh well when a popular argument is that she's being racist by pointing out (and mocking) the racism of her classmates, yeah, that is structural racism

Leave racism against prep school boys aside and she's still labeling a bunch of prep school girls "puck sluts," which strikes me as not OK.
posted by Jahaza at 10:09 AM on July 7


Alleged racism. I'm not saying it was racist, I'm saying leave aside the racism allegation.
posted by Jahaza at 10:10 AM on July 7


Rarely is there a post on MetaFilter where I feel compelled to come off the lurker bench and comment. I went to Lawrenceville when it was all male and was a member of the first co-ed class ('88). The decision to accept women to the school came down from the trustees in the spring of 1985 and it was a big deal for many of us - the majority of students polled at the time opposed coeducation.

I was a decidedly middle-class white boy from rural NJ who was able to attend only on a need-based scholarship that covered nearly all of the then $10K tuition. Most of my closest friends were also on scholarships and we were a pretty good mix of black and white students.

Race and racism were definitely issues at L'ville in the '80's. I watched my friends have to deal with stupid questions from white students about their hair or in what part of the ghetto they lived - or listened as other students expected them to represent the viewpoint of all black Americans. My friends had to be patient and calm when dealing with this non-stop garbage. Some of it was meant to funny, but most of it was meant to hurt.

Ms. Peterson is a young woman who dealt with what I'm sure was a constant barrage of bullshit from some of her classmates the best way she knew how. It's disappointing to see my old school still suffering from the same sickness all these years later.
posted by Hale Poetry at 10:14 AM on July 7 [26 favorites]


what is the specific issue in all this that we're supposed to be up in arms about?

Why is it so important to you that people not discuss this? Your browser has a BACK button, not a YOU MUST COMMENT button.
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


uh well when a popular argument is that she's being racist by pointing out (and mocking) the racism of her classmates

Except that she didn't point out anyone's racism. If she said "You students who were flying Confederate flags are racists", this would be a non-story. It's when she says "Students who live in this dorm, and students who play this sport, are Confederate flag waving racists and the girls who fuck them are sluts." If you want to defend that, go for it, but don't claim that she said something she didn't.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:15 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Which link has the part where she made misogynistic comments? I'm not seeing it in list of hashtags most articles use.
posted by NoraReed at 10:20 AM on July 7


Except that she didn't point out anyone's racism.

she says "Students who live in this dorm, and students who play this sport, are Confederate flag waving racists

huh

FTFA:

"“Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians,” Peterson responded. “If that’s a large portion of the school’s male population..."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:20 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Did she actually call the girls slots, or was that in the voice of the character? That's a fairly important difference, right?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:20 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


she used a hastag with the word 'slut' in it on her instagram when she posted the picture. That's where it comes from.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:22 AM on July 7


And because she did something stupid as a reaction, the national news story is now about her stupid decision, rather than about her triumph as the first black class president of this school in the face of harassment and racism.

Oh yes, that national news story about the racism and harassment she faced. If only she hadn't posted that picture! We all could have continued to enjoy that national news story that she ruined. What a shame.
posted by prefpara at 10:23 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


and yes, the use of the word 'slut' in the hashtag #wherearethepucksluts along with #romney2016 and #confederate, so clearly mocking the misogyny of the men of Lawrencville.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:23 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Is it seriously too much to ask that you treat others as you would like to be treated?
posted by koavf at 10:23 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


It's when she says "Students who live in this dorm

Where Confederate flags were hung.

and students who play this sport

Who called their black opponents "Trayvons."

are Confederate flag waving racists and the girls who fuck them are sluts."

Except for the follow-up where she explicitly states she's mocking her target's misogyny.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:24 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


MP - I get that, but my read is that it's meant to be the character saying that, right? So the point is that the contingent she's criticising thinks the women are sluts ?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:25 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


uh well when a popular argument is that she's being racist by pointing out (and mocking) the racism of her classmates, yeah, that is structural racism

"Popular" where? Certainly not in this thread where absolutely nobody has made that claim. If you're referring to the white supremacist site linked in the FPP then, well, duh, yes, white supremacists are racist.

And, sure, anyone who says "OMG reverse racism" is being an idiot. But that's not the reason she was asked to step down by the school's dean, nor is it the reason anyone in this thread thinks that that decision was a perfectly reasonable decision. Again, "there are racists who come up with crazy racist explanations for everything that happens in the world" is not, in itself, a particularly interesting discovery.

Again, what I wish somebody would try to articulate is an argument that links the actual events of this case in some meaningful and interesting way to the obviously important issues that people want to demonstrate their passionate beliefs about. Of course racism is an incredibly important issue. Of course it's shameful that an unknown number of students at Lawrenceville set out to harass Ms Peterson. Of course it's shameful that some members of the Lawrenceville basketball team called opposing players "Trayvons." It's also shameful that people post photos of Obama with a bone through his nose. It's shameful that people paint swastikas on Jewish cemeteries. It's shameful that the Washington Redskins refuse to change the name of their football team etc. etc. etc.

But I don't see that any of those things has anything much at all to do with whether or not a school administration should or should not turn a blind eye when the Class President posts an Instagram image indiscriminately mocking an entire sector of the student body.

If she'd written an op-ed column in the school newspaper decrying racist attitudes in the school and calling on the administration to punish the basketball players who used the "Trayvon" term and then been asked to stand down this thread would make sense to me. That would pretty clearly be "institutionalized racism" working to silence a protesting voice. That's not, however, what happened. She posted a juvenile and ill-thought out Instagram image. It's not a big deal. It doesn't deserve any kind of significant penalty. But it merits the response it got: being asked to resign as Class President.
posted by yoink at 10:26 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Maybe she really does want Romney to run again in 2016!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


My - I get that, but my read is that it's meant to be the character saying that, right? So the point is that the contingent she's criticising thinks the women are sluts ?

Yes. In her own words:
Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians
posted by zombieflanders at 10:26 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Yeah I've had my wires crossed with what I thought people were saying here. Cool cool.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:27 AM on July 7


yoink I think you're focusing too much on the potential outrage against the administration, and not against the student body. I don't think the administration acted inappropriately, and I also don't see a lot of people here saying they acted inappropriately. the focus is more on the student body and the pushback this woman received before during and after this incident.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:33 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Well but it also seems that the administration took little to no action during the entire escalation of Peterson's harassment until Peterson responded, at which point they were like 'Oh ho, a line has been crossed'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:35 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


bububut she was class president

surely she should have shown decorum to hateful numbskulls who got a pass from an apathetic administration
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:37 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


Oh, I didn't even register that because she's so obviously pointing out misogyny. Is that really the only negative thing that she did that ISN'T completely fabricated? By racists? Who are angry about an uppity teenage girl?

Is that, I should say, the fucking hill that these racist-ass fuckers, here and elsewhere, are planning to die on?

Because lol at people who don't give a shit about sex-shaming suddenly getting all up in arms over it when it becomes a weapon to be used against a black teenager.
posted by NoraReed at 10:37 AM on July 7 [17 favorites]


But I don't see that any of those things has anything much at all to do with whether or not a school administration should or should not turn a blind eye when the Class President posts an Instagram image indiscriminately mocking an entire sector of the student body.

There are a few different ways to respond.

1) One could argue that the school administration should have turned a blind eye. Peterson received a great amount of harassment that went unpunished. It's not then fair for a first, small lapse of judgment on her part to lead to her dismissal. I feel like the response that someone might give by saying that she had certain duties as Student Body President are really making too big of a deal about being Class President at a High School.

2) One might even say, and this is what MisantropicPainforest said, is that the issue isn't with what the administration did, but the focus that has been given in the news and discussion. The focus shouldn't be on whether or not Peterson should have been dismissed or not. The focus should be on the great amount of harassment and racism that is going on.

3) Or even referring back to what Peterson herself said, she was, "making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians." She might be making a mockery of a certain sector of the student population, but it's not an innocent sector of the student population.

You try to make a distinction between her writing an op-ed about the racism at Lawrence versus a, "a juvenile and ill-thought out Instagram image" I actually don't see the distinction. There are a variety of ways one can address racism. One would be an op-ed. Another a mocking picture on Instagram. I don't think the latter is any less valid, particularly since we're dealing with High School kids in 2014. That's not because I think we should expect less from them, implying that the Instragram picture is somehow less valid. Rather, that's because I think given the times, an Instragram picture is a valid tool that some older people just won't understand. Much like how trending twitter hashtags or occupying public spaces might be a valid way to protest now a days rather than asserting that no, those aren't valid ways of protest, because there is one and only one proper way to protest, and it's how we used to do it back in the day.
posted by SollosQ at 10:43 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


"Popular" where? Certainly not in this thread where absolutely nobody has made that claim.

People in this thread have said Peterson was being racist, and/or it's racist to not call it out as racism.

I read NoraReed's original comment as just disappointment in the world and MeFi that "reverse racism" ideas are still in evidence, not anything specifically relating to this whole story. So the responses rushing to say nevertheless Maya Peterson Did A Bad Thing and should have stepped down have seemed weird and point-missing to me.
posted by fleacircus at 10:53 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Come on now, she didn't single out any student (as far as I can see); she was the model for the Lawrenceville 'Boi' shot. Maybe not her finest hour but really this is a tempest in a teacup. This is news because we, in America, are idiots about race.
posted by Mister_A at 10:55 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


People in this thread have said Peterson was being racist

Not a single person in this thread has said that.
posted by 0 at 11:05 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


and/or it's racist to not call it out as racism.

Exactly one person has said that.
posted by 0 at 11:06 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It's not then fair for a first, small lapse of judgment on her part to lead to her dismissal.

They did turn a blind eye to her first small lapse of judgment... when she was photographed smoking marijuana.
posted by Jahaza at 11:07 AM on July 7


Not a single person in this thread has said that.

Giving people a pass on racism because of the color of their skin is, well, you know what.

I read that as saying what Petersen did was racist.
posted by fleacircus at 11:08 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Maybe she should have done a terrorist fist bump instead.

Personally, if I were a black kid hearing white people using the term "Trayvons", hearing from my fellow students of color about the shit they had to deal with, saw fucking Confederate flags hanging on campus, and had already had a whisper/smear/sexual harassment campaign against me, I would be inclined to strike back any way I could.

Each one of those things is stupid, no doubt, but microaggressions add up and take a toll on you over time. We always look for reasons that the black person is wrong for being angry, and discount the myriad of reasons that justify that anger. We always demand that black people adhere to an impossible standard of fairness, rationality, and perfect behavior at all times when they are surrounded by white people who never meet those standards (and in fact often sink below them to the point of brutality and violence) and never get punished for it either.

No rich white boy was harmed in any way by what she did. None of them will lose job opportunities or start to fail at their studies or become depressed. But students of color suffer all those things from the racist bullshit they have to swallow every day, day after day, and that they are never, ever allowed to call out or complain about.

Black power? Lord yes. Let's have some.
posted by emjaybee at 11:08 AM on July 7 [24 favorites]


its not a small lapse of judgment to smoke pot for chrissakes.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:11 AM on July 7


They did turn a blind eye to her first small lapse of judgment... when she was photographed smoking marijuana.

oh no

she did an illegal drug which was illegal

will her offenses against the white race never cease
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:12 AM on July 7 [22 favorites]


what is the specific issue in all this that we're supposed to be up in arms about?

I think it's an excuse (I do think it is kind of an excuse) to have Standard Internet Race Conversation #17 which is the one where people go "Why is it okay for black people to make fun of white people but white people can't make fun of black people?" which is a subset of Standard Internet Race Conversation #1 which is "Why can't white people say the N-word?" BOTH of which were also recently brought out when a millionaire out-in-the-open, dyed-in-the-wool racist on the radio who has been more or less continually employed for the last 20-odd years called black people animals prone to violence and then got fired and then a bunch of people who are the kind of people who listen to drive-time shock jock radio (please feel free to infer what race and gender I'm mocking here) were all like, "Uh, what about FREE SPEECH?" when they weren't busy being like, "He's just telling it like it is!"

WHICH IS TO SAY

I don't think (fairly or unfairly) this conversation is about the specific incident or whether or not class presidents of prep schools should make fun of other students at prep schools in their official capacity as elected officials but is a chance to reiterate, however futilely 1) Reverse racism doesn't exist (because 'This is RACIST' was the initial bawling of the be-critter-pants-ed so egregiously, tragically offended) and 2) You know what's racist as hell? Prep Schools.

Also, pageviews. Delicious, delicious pageviews.
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:12 AM on July 7


but whatever, you don't give a shit.

again we learn that if a minority does anything to upset the status quo, they better be SQUEAKY FUCKING CLEAN. I mean they must never ever smoke pot, EVER, because that will invariably be thrown back against them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:13 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


Personally, if I were a black kid hearing white people using the term "Trayvons", hearing from my fellow students of color about the shit they had to deal with, saw fucking Confederate flags hanging on campus, and had already had a whisper/smear/sexual harassment campaign against me, I would be inclined to strike back any way I could.

Seriously. Why didn't the school shut the "Trayvon" business right down? It sounds like it was going on where a coach - at least - should be able to hear. Seriously, if every time some dude wanted to make me uncomfortable he started bringing up Elliot Rodger, I would be freaked the hell out. Using "in this country people of your skin color can be publicly murdered with no consequences" as a throwaway insult....that's, well, I'm looking forward to the day when we're judged by the content of our character, because some people are going to be judged pretty fucking hard.
posted by Frowner at 11:15 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


I actually don't think it's possible for a black person to be "squeaky clean" to most people, MP. If there is no criminal record, they are accused of being related to criminals, or being illegal aliens. Or of being too "harsh" or "angry." Or of incompetence.

It's a standard designed to be impossible; the invisible poll test that we like to ding black folks for failing, never mind that it was designed to keep them out. No white kid could pass it either, but that's ok because we never make them try to.
posted by emjaybee at 11:17 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


I mean they must never ever smoke pot, EVER, because that will invariably be thrown back against them.

I mean obviously if it was a good enough retroactive defense in the public's eye to make murdering a child in cold blood totally okay then it's pretty much good enough for literally any other situation on earth.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I was going to smoke it like a cigarette
posted by shakespeherian at 11:21 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Look, the smarmy upper-crust Northeast millionaire is such an old and anodyne trope that it was on frigging Gilligan's Island. The only reason this is being read as "racialized" or "stereotyping all white male students is because she's black and female and has been the subject of racist and sexist harassment, which makes this feel a lot like hitting someone 10 times and then screaming when they hit you back once.
posted by kagredon at 11:29 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


Each one of those things is stupid, no doubt, but microaggressions add up and take a toll on you over time. We always look for reasons that the black person is wrong for being angry, and discount the myriad of reasons that justify that anger. We always demand that black people adhere to an impossible standard of fairness, rationality, and perfect behavior at all times when they are surrounded by white people who never meet those standards (and in fact often sink below them to the point of brutality and violence) and never get punished for it either.

No one (as far as I can tell) is suggesting that she should not be angry about this sort of thing. I have no doubt that she has suffered from racism and harassment. The question is, what do you do with that anger? And is the answer to that question different if you happen to be the class president?

I hardly think that it's setting "an impossible standard of fairness, rationality, and perfect behavior" to suggest that maybe she shouldn't have posted a potentially incendiary and insulting photograph on Instagram for the entire world to see.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:31 AM on July 7


Talk about a non-argument: "Oh, well, they overlooked her smoking pot, which they would never have done for their white students, which used up her administrative free pass (that's how it works there!), and so they had to punish her for her picture, which was truly, genuinely offensive to racist, misogynistic dopes."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:34 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I'm truly surprised by this response in an otherwise thoughtful, if heated, conversation.

If you think mocking the privilege of a specific culture is the same as ridiculing an entire race of people based on hurtful stereotypes, then someone smarter than I needs help educate you on the differences.

I'm trying hard not to attack in a personal way, but this is not the level of comment I'd expect to see on Metafilter. Whether I agree or disagree with a given opinion, I'm not accustomed to seeing such contorted logic here.

If, say, some white Lawrenceville student had taken an equivalently insensitive photograph of themselves holding (for example) a fried chicken drumstick and a slice of watermelon, and publicized it with hashtags like: #OBAMA4EVA #YESFREELUNCHES #ONGEDTRACK.

Why is this young woman being given a pass in some corners for her poor judgement? Is it because she's black and the intended targets of her derision were white?

I dunno; that just sounds a little racist to me.

posted by MoxieProxy at 11:35 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


That Alexis Wilkinson article is pretty wonderful: "Your offended constituents, however, do not want to be cut deep—or cut at all. They do not want to be reminded of their context, your context. They want their “uber-diverse” President—but hold the controversy, hold the humor directed at their expense, and, please, eighty-six any real critique of the racist system that created this situation in the first place."

One small detail I found interesting is that despite the popularity of the "it's really all about class!" derail when people talk about race in the USA (not in this thread, thankfully), her fellow students seem to have projected onto her whatever class allowed them to dismiss her most quickly. From the Clutch article, when she wrote a FB post that was mildly critical of rich, white men after Obama's election, she was accused of being ungrateful and hypocritical because those rich white men subsidized her tuition (except they didn't). In the NYO article linked above, her family's wealth was instead used to erase her color: "The blackest thing about Maya Peterson is her dad’s AmEx card." It's like people literally can't understand that there are really wealthy black and Latino/a people, but that money doesn't make them immune to racism - i.e., that race and class have been different issues in America the whole time.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 AM on July 7 [21 favorites]


but this is not the level of comment I'd expect to see on Metafilter. 

The comments have gotten better ever since I lowered my expectations.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:42 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


she shouldn't have posted a potentially incendiary and insulting photograph on Instagram for the entire world to see.

I think "incendiary" is stretching the point to absurdity. That picture is the mildest form of mockery I can imagine. The Preppy Handbook was much rougher on the exact same set of people, for goodness sake.

And "incendiary" is an interesting word, too; it implies adding fuel in conditions where a fire is likely to start; in other words, that tensions are high. Why are tensions high? Well, for one, because it's a campus that is a-ok with white kids flying Confederate flags and using the term "Trayvons." Or perhaps it's incendiary because the white kids at this school are so very prone to going up in flames at the slightest provocation.
posted by emjaybee at 11:44 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


Relevant to "But her instagram photo was racist" comments:

Aamer Rahman on 'reverse racism'.
posted by entropone at 11:48 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Screw being part of the student council or whatever the fuck ousted her out.

I want to see more instagrams making fun of privileged people who were abusing her.

This student is awesome, and this high school is filled with the people (students and administrators) I expect to be attending a $50k/year high school.

I love how the issue of bullying a young black female student has changed into "but she made fun of white people".

I'm glad she went to instagram rather than a razor blade. I wish more students were like her.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:56 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


Seems like one can simultaneously believe her actions weren't appropriate for a student body president while also believing they weren't racist.
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I think "incendiary" is stretching the point to absurdity.

Man we are really splitting hairs now. It's a picture that is going to cause a reaction. Is that better?

Isn't it possible for me (and others) to sympathize with her treatment at the school, decry the administration's lack of action regarding real issues of racism and harassment that she suffered, AND suggest that posting the picture was a stupid move that didn't help and probably made things worse?

We can criticize her poor judgment (which, let's remember, was public, not private) without questioning her motives or absolving others of responsibility.

[On preview, what Justinian said.]
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:03 PM on July 7


It's like people literally can't understand that there are really wealthy black and Latino/a people, but that money doesn't make them immune to racism - i.e., that race and class have been different issues in America the whole time.

This is true, but I'm not going to be any nicer to Michael Steele or Herman Cain than I would to George W. Bush or Mitt Romney.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:03 PM on July 7


Isn't it possible for me (and others) to sympathize with her treatment at the school, decry the administration's lack of action regarding real issues of racism and harassment that she suffered, AND suggest that posting the picture was a stupid move that didn't help and probably made things worse?


What, are you suggesting that two wrongs don't make a right? That's absurd.
posted by mr. digits at 12:09 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Seems like one can simultaneously believe her actions weren't appropriate for a student body president while also believing they weren't racist.

So she was like 17? And made fun of the lacrosse team or whatever. HOLY SHIT!

Back in my high school days, nobody made fun of cheerleaders, the football team, the basketball team, the academic bowl team, the speech team, the science club, the one-man chess team, or the student council.

I mean thats just horrible. She's lucky that she's not in jail.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:14 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's exactly what I was saying! You figured it out!
posted by Justinian at 12:14 PM on July 7


(In my high school days plenty of people made fun of all those groups. Lots. The student body president acting in public was not, of course, one of them.)
posted by Justinian at 12:16 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


We always look for reasons that the black person is wrong for being angry, and discount the myriad of reasons that justify that anger.

Along with other annoying tics, I wonder if it's possible to stop saying "We" when you mean "All those other people not like me that I don't like."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:19 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


What, are you suggesting that two wrongs don't make a right? That's absurd.

Dudes with Confederate flags, dudes who snuck photos of her half-naked and distributed them, dudes who made up stories about her bullying someone on Twitter in an attempt to get her out of her position as Student Body President-- and then she is like 'Ha ha you guys look like this, all with your hockey sticks and your Yale sweatshirts'

And this is 'two wrongs don't make a right'? Like, how are these things even comparable.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on July 7 [19 favorites]


[the class president enters, as is customary, bedecked with Byzantine purple, diamonds, and gold; he holds out his right hand so the mere students in Mr. Cornwell's chemistry class may kiss his ring]
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:22 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


In an abstract sense?

It isn't much of a transgression, but an intelligent seventeen-year-old woman ought to know better than to produce permanent record of her response, if nothing else.
posted by mr. digits at 12:24 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I don't even recall knowing who the school president was. We figured that stuff was for dorks.
posted by jonmc at 12:25 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It sure looks like Peterson's crime was getting caught--always a bad crime in prep school--but it looks like she sure had a lot of people ready to drop anything she did that crossed any kind of line into the ears of the authority: the authority that's apparently not doing anything about kids who have Confederate flags even though those kids are in New Jersey and don't even have the fig leaf of Southern heritage pride to hide behind.
posted by immlass at 12:26 PM on July 7


So she was like 17? And made fun of the lacrosse team or whatever. HOLY SHIT!

Didn't there used to be some sort of convention against this stupid voiced sarcasm thing?

In my high school days plenty of people made fun of all those groups. Lots. The student body president acting in public was not, of course, one of them.

And this is the point that some commenters here studiously wish to deflect from. She acted in a manner inconsistent with the role to which was elected, and (as some commenter on one of the links said), she got depresidented. This is how this part of it should work.
posted by amorphatist at 12:26 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Is there a single word or phrase for the thing in this kind of thread that a handful of voices always turn up to do - not quite defend racists per se, but more - to strenuously deny that any racism is really happening?

I feel like this is a thing but it's a bit mercurial and I can't quite get it down neatly.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:27 PM on July 7


JPD: "This isn't actually true. And there are very very real differences between the sort of kids (and their family backgrounds) who go to Lawrenceville and who go to Chaminade and Delbarton."

Feel free to take this offline, but I'm really curious about what you mean by this.

(Or maybe I was just too far removed to differentiate shades of gray in the spectrum of the dazzlingly wealthy)
posted by schmod at 12:27 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


And this is the point that some commenters here studiously wish to deflect from. She acted in a manner inconsistent with the role to which was elected, and (as some commenter on one of the links said), she got depresidented. This is how this part of it should work.

And that's really not the issue. The issue is that a not insignificant portion of the student body was very nasty to her and did very nasty things to her, and the school did nothing. But once she pushed back, JUST A LITTLE BIT, then they got off their asses.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:30 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Quick question: Does anybody know WHO the new student body president is? What demographic does this new person represent?

I think this should be a part of the story as well.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:40 PM on July 7


The issue is that a not insignificant portion of the student body was very nasty to her and did very nasty things to her, and the school did nothing.

Facts not in evidence? The articles describe an school meeting to decry the fake tweets, an effort to stop the distribution of the pictures, and a refusal to act on anonymous (true) information about drug use. The school doesn't have subpeona power to make Twitter or the cell phone companies give up the names of any perpetrators.
posted by Jahaza at 12:41 PM on July 7


Which I suppose isn't "facts not in evidence" at all, but that they actually did do stuff.
posted by Jahaza at 12:42 PM on July 7


What did the school do about Confederate flags on school property?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


[the class president enters, as is customary, bedecked with Byzantine purple, diamonds, and gold; he holds out his right hand so the mere students in Mr. Cornwell's chemistry class may kiss his ring]

You were permitted to touch the class president?!

We were required to avert our eyes as she passed lest the puissance and the glory of her mien strike us dead.
posted by winna at 12:49 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Perhaps because I don't remember (and likely never knew) who my class president was, I am not so super clear on what duties a class president has or exactly what attributes one is supposed to embody, but it seems like calling out and making a mockery of the racist and misogynist culture of a subset of the student body is EXACTLY the behavior I would hope to see from someone in that role.
posted by pajamazon at 12:50 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


And that's really not the issue.

Actually, it's the only significant issue. If she was just a regular member of the student body, there's no story.

I don't think anyone would seriously be criticizing her actions if she weren't the first black class president of an exclusive prep school.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:50 PM on July 7


Does anybody know WHO the new student body president is? What demographic does this new person represent?

2014-15 President - Vice Presidents

I think I read somewhere that the President before Peterson was African-American (male), but can't find the link now.
posted by 0 at 12:50 PM on July 7


The articles describe an school meeting to decry the fake tweets

FTFA: In a school-wide meeting, Peterson apologized for the photos and the dean of students clarified that the racist tweets were fabricated.

C'mon, there is no evidence that the school meeting was 'to decry the fake tweets'. Unless you have an article that we don't?

The school doesn't have subpeona power

No shit, but they could have at least done some investigation:

Peterson was frustrated that the school didn’t investigate her anonymous attackers, even after another scary incident in the winter, when someone sent an email to the freshman class containing photos of Peterson half naked in her room.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:52 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone would seriously be criticizing her actions if she weren't the first black class president of an exclusive prep school.

There might not have been a campaign of white supremacist terrorism aimed at getting her deseated either.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:53 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


C'mon, there is no evidence that the school meeting was 'to decry the fake tweets'. Unless you have an article that we don't?

C'mon yourself. It was addressed in an all-school meeting. That's the point. That it was addressed.
posted by Jahaza at 12:55 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


There might not have been a campaign of white supremacist terrorism aimed at getting her deseated either.

Sure. But again, we can rail against the "white supremacist terrorism," criticize the school's handling of the situation, and still think that the Instagram picture was a bad idea.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:02 PM on July 7


someone sent an email to the freshman class containing photos of Peterson half naked in her room.

I mean, really? Really this school is all "oh well idk who did it lol" just all whatevs unconcerned about finding out who is using their servers to distribute child pornography? Really for reals?
posted by elizardbits at 1:02 PM on July 7 [14 favorites]


but oh wow a black girl in a yale sweatshirt, have pinkerton's send their finest men on the next express!
posted by elizardbits at 1:04 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


yeah but she smoked pot once so thats a bigger deal lets talk about that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:05 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Sure. But again, we can rail against the "white supremacist terrorism," criticize the school's handling of the situation, and still think that the Instagram picture was a bad idea.

Well, that's up to you. No one is telling you what you can or cannot think is a bad idea. For myself, I think that the Instragram picture is pretty fuckin' brave, given the context of Peterson's situation, and I think that had the school lifted a single finger in trying to put a stop to some of the racist bullshit on campus that maybe Peterson might have felt enough of a support structure that such bravery was unnecessary; that her posting the photo was met from the administration in the way that it was is shameful, I think, and-- again, in my opinion-- focusing on why you think Peterson's actions were unbecoming of her station or whatever seems-- to me-- to be totally ignoring the context.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:06 PM on July 7 [21 favorites]


Hear, hear.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:07 PM on July 7


I think that had the school lifted a single finger is trying to put a stop to some of the racist bullshit on campus

If you think prep schools don't put effort into trying to stop racist behaviour you're deluding yourself.
posted by Jahaza at 1:09 PM on July 7


I mean, you could argue that they should do more, but that they don't "[lift] a single finger" is ridiculous.
posted by Jahaza at 1:10 PM on July 7


frankly having a bit of weed every once in a while seems like a pretty good way of dealing with this combination of microaggressive bullshit and straight up abuse

I'd be pretty anxious, living in that kind of toxic-ass environment, and would probably self-medicate too
posted by NoraReed at 1:10 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


If you think prep schools don't put effort into trying to stop racist behaviour you're deluding yourself.

Are we talking about "prep schools," or Lawrenceville?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:14 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I feel like this is a thing but it's a bit mercurial and I can't quite get it down neatly.

They're the Knights of the Status Quo. "Move along nothing to see here" is their motto, but "Contrarianism in support of traditional norms is the edgiest stance of all" is what the Latin on their coat of arms translates to. On a fess are images of the true misogynists and racists we need to look out for, i.e. minorities and women. Above, a telescope representing the discarding of context. Below, a magnifying class representing the acceptance of unfair scrutiny, beside a set of pixelated scales symbolizing the playing of make-believe judges on the internet.
posted by fleacircus at 1:15 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


i would def smoke with maya peterson. i'd even order the pizza.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:16 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


If you think prep schools don't put effort into trying to stop racist behaviour you're deluding yourself.

Other students have been noting the Confederate flag issue for decades.

I mean, you could argue that they should do more, but that they don't "[lift] a single finger" is ridiculous.

Well, if we're going to get deep into the weeds with the nitpicking and rules-lawyering, sure, they managed to lift a single finger. Progress!
posted by zombieflanders at 1:16 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


frankly having a bit of weed every once in a while seems like a pretty good way of dealing with this combination of microaggressive bullshit and straight up abuse

I'd be pretty anxious, living in that kind of toxic-ass environment, and would probably self-medicate too


Lets not confound the issue, and make her look like someone who had to turn to drugs to deal with the pressures of high school.

I think her instagram picture (are there more??? I'd love to see that shit) is great, and it did EXACTLY what it was meant to do:

It demonstrated that when a black woman is sexually harassed and abused (Can anybody count of the number of felonies/misdemeanors here, including conspiracy, destroying evidence, and other lawyerly bullshit people must have learned from someone , ahem...older?) there is NO FUCKING ACTION.

But when a bunch of white boys feel like they were insulted, people lose any kind of position they may have had.

Fuck all of you who think she did ANYTHING "unbecoming of a student body president". As a human being, she showed us how inequality is sooo fucking easy to just gloss over.

Fuck that school.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:16 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Welcome to the thread. It starts at the top.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:16 PM on July 7


This did prompt me to do some serious research (cursory google) to see if I could figure out who our class president was. (Slightly complicated: I went to two schools, and one had no class officers and named every graduating student as "valedictorian" because we were goddamned hippies).

My conclusion? Probably some popular guy who was good at sports, likely as the third place vote getter after Mickey Mouse and John Thomas Dick Dick Cockerson.*

Peterson's probably gonna get laid like whoa at Wesleyan with this story.

I did actually go to high school with a guy named "Coke Dick," but that was the hippy school and he was foreign and a jock so nobody bothered him about it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


John Thomas Dick Dick Cockerson

Of the New Hampshire Cockersons, or the Connecticut Cockersons?
posted by kagredon at 1:21 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Context. That lovely mythical place where a 17 year old draws on 250 years of history to make a point......instead of just making a racist statement.

At some point you need to just chalk this shit up to people being stupid instead of inventing cultural context.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 1:22 PM on July 7


(OH NO A JOKE ABOUT FUSSY OLD MONEY NEW ENGLANDERS

FLAGGED AS RACIST)
posted by kagredon at 1:22 PM on July 7


chalk this shit up to people being stupid

done!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:23 PM on July 7


(At my school, we were told that we were allowed to vote in Jesus or Optimus Prime if that's what we really wanted, but that neither of those guys seemed likely to show up to meetings and that we might not be happy with the quality of representation/services we'd get.)
posted by kagredon at 1:28 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


the Sagaponac Cockersons, surely
posted by elizardbits at 1:30 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Fuck all of you who think she did ANYTHING "unbecoming of a student body president".

It's fair to say that you're not demonstrating much knowledge of what constitutes "unbecoming" behavior. Calm down.
posted by amorphatist at 1:48 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Are we talking about "prep schools," or Lawrenceville?

Both. But specifically:

Stand Against Racism week Friday Article
Stand Against Racism Day article
Residential Life Meeting Features Equality Advocate Dr. Michael Fowlin
Days of Dialogue
Students Talking About Racism program
Etc.

There's a relatively large staff devoted to diversity issues.
posted by Jahaza at 1:49 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


There was apparently an open letter circulated by a disaffected group of -- shall we say 'traditionalist'?-- alums, evidently to all alums.

Some highlights:
TO OUR FELLOW LAWRENTIANS
Concerned about the directions the current leadership has taken our School, a group of alumni/ae, spanning all living decades of Lawrentians, including a number who served as class and alumni officers, trustees, class agents, parents and others who have given a lifetime of devoted service to Lawrenceville, began months ago to examine more closely several developing trends at the School in recent years. Our investigation revealed a number of developments that are disturbing. Concerns include financial management, admissions policy, administrative structure, campus life, abandonment of cherished traditions, and alumni affairs. Whether by design or indifference, we realized rather quickly that the communications all alumni/ae receive from the School do not provide an accurate picture of the School today. The purpose of this communication is to provide you, an alumnus/a stakeholder, an insight into the revelations we have discovered.

During the eleven-year tenure of Head Master Liz Duffy, Lawrenceville has increasingly forsaken the traditional core values that have sustained it for over two centuries, substituting values influenced by ideology and money. Of particular note, we found an engineered change in the demographics of the student body, a bloated and expensive administrative structure, and the demise of House sports which raises grave concerns about the viability of the House system as we have historically known it. We believe these changes have transformed and diminished the School from its standing as one of the preeminent American boarding schools, and the School’s basic philosophy has been remade without any meaningful notice to or input from its alumni. Some might describe Lawrenceville today as “PC Gone Wild.”
...
What follows is a brief presentation of our findings. Those of you who love Lawrenceville, as we do, will find them disturbing. If you do care about our School, you need to voice your concerns now, and we will seek your immediate support to revise the rules which govern the structure of our Board of Trustees.
...
In 2009, a letter from a concerned parent was circulated to a number of alumni and touched on several of the issues we still find troubling today:
" … decisions are driven by a pedagogical agenda that threatens the core values of The Lawrenceville School … the administrative structure has become top-heavy and expensive … two years ago, over twenty highly regarded and experienced teachers left the School … many left because of concerns over deteriorating faculty-administrative relations, poor morale and deleterious changes in curricula and scheduling … "
...
Lawrenceville - a national, residential secondary school from its founding - has been reversing course in the last number of years, and dramatically so in the last decade. Multiculturalism, globalization, and diversity are the hallmark standards of the Admissions Office today. In the year 2003-04, Lawrenceville’s student body was primarily Caucasian American (70%) with 13% Asian and 8% International; in the current year those numbers are 55% Caucasian American, 21% Asian and 14% International. Diversity - racial, cultural and geographical - is certainly a valuable feature of Lawrenceville and every other great school. However, we feel that the School’s interpretations of multiculturalism, and the implementation of policies stemming from this view, have become increasingly distracting.
...
Also of special note is that of ‘legacy’ applicants and the special attention that may or may not be given currently to such applicants and their respective families by Admissions. The history and the importance of legacy to Lawrenceville is so well documented - - - through generations the legacy factor no doubt has provided a stable and positive influence. Just prior to this most recent round of admission acceptances, the Admission Office sent a letter to the respective families involved with legacy applicants:
"… given the competiveness of the process, legacy affiliation … cannot serve to counterbalance any weakness … in an application … as part of this process, the Admission Office does consider legacy status which represents a positive point of interest … in recent years, legacy applicants have earned admission at a higher rate than other applicants … " (which last year was 18%).
In the 2013-14 cycle, the School admitted 248 new Lawrentians - - - of that total, only 10.4% (or 26) are students whose father or grandfather attended Lawrenceville.
...
The trends in Admissions policy and the specifics of Strategic Directions II beg the question - - - is Lawrenceville moving to transform itself into an international school or is Lawrenceville going to adjust and reassume its two hundred year history as an American national residential secondary school leader, with a moderate percent of international representation and a re-establishment of the sensitivity to the legacy application? Again, we would suggest the current Board leadership turn to its Alumni for advice and support.
...
CAMPUS LIFE/TRADITIONS
In the last eleven years under outgoing Head Master Liz Duffy, the School has turned away from many of the traditions that have fostered community among Lawrentians for generations and that have insured stability over so many years.
...
The tragic difficulties experienced by the Circle House sporting traditions has to be credited to the objectives of the administration and the applicant demographics which the School is seeking for admission.
...
The School has begun using common grade level nomenclature instead of “Forms” and increasing references to “dorms” instead of “Houses”. The School Hymn is rarely sung and virtually abandoned, saved for Alumni memorial services. The Chapel Hymnal, developed by and for use at Lawrenceville, has been replaced with a homogenized generic volume.
This administration has openly promoted and advocated the benefits of alternative life styles throughout the entire student body community, including II Formers ages 14 and 15 years old. A Diversity Council was established and an example of policy implemented by the School was represented by an interview with a student member of the Diversity Council in The Lawrence on 10/11/13, who stated:
"The introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms will signify that gender is not a rigid binary system and people do not have to necessarily define themselves as a single gender. This idea will eliminate the discomfort a Lawrentian may feel when they are required to pick a bathroom and … will benefit those who are transgender, intersexual, or do not specifically identify to … male or female."
...
Lawrenceville was once a school that honored and treasured its so respected traditions and was a school which fostered a strong sense of community. It was a school that felt an obligation to pay attention to the whole student, giving equal attention to the person’s academic, physical, moral and spiritual development. What has happened to the core value of living a life of honor? What has our school become? Lawrenceville has so often relied on the loyalty of its alumni and this current Board must now turn to our Alumni for advice and support.
...
This letter was sent before April 15, but after Maya Peterson was removed from office.

I think it shows, among many other things, that the attack on her was very probably a part of a much larger counter-revolutionary campaign.
posted by jamjam at 1:52 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


The tragic difficulties experienced by the Circle House sporting traditions has to be credited to the objectives of the administration and the applicant demographics which the School is seeking for admission.

It is difficult to imagine a violin small enough to convey the world of sorrow and loss conveyed by the quoted statement.
posted by winna at 1:56 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Having some familiarity with institutions like this I'd be shocked if there weren't a group like that. Actually I give them bonus points for "Political Correctness Run Wild" rather than the ordinary formulation "PC Police"

I'm not sure its evidence of anything. Other than probably a good laugh for 70% of the current students.
posted by JPD at 1:58 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It's evidence of people being upset that they can't be as openly bigoted now as they were in the past. That is factually what complaints of "PC Gone Wild" means.
posted by elizardbits at 2:02 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


And that legacy section is all you need to know about why it was really going on. Trey and Quint didn't make the grade and had to go to gasp the local day school.
posted by JPD at 2:02 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


It's evidence of people being upset that they can't be as openly bigoted now as they were in the past. That is factually what complaints of "PC Gone Wild" means.

Yes - and I bet if I tried hard enough I could find an Oberlin alum group that would write the same kind of letter.
posted by JPD at 2:04 PM on July 7


what's your point? racism is endemic?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:04 PM on July 7


And? It would still be bigots crying no matter who wrote it.
posted by elizardbits at 2:05 PM on July 7


That letter is so incredibly dog-whistley, strays from miles around have come to my door just from reading it.
posted by axiom at 2:06 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


Yes - and I bet if I tried hard enough I could find an Oberlin alum group that would write the same kind of letter.

I agree, racism is an enormous systemic problem which should be fought against tooth and nail. Which is why I join you in applauding the efforts of Peterson and abhorring the actions of her school.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I agree, racism is an enormous systemic problem which should be fought against tooth and nail. Which is why I join you in applauding the efforts of Peterson and abhorring the actions of her school.

And I agree that racism is an enormous systemic problem which should be fought against tooth and nail. Which is why I facepalm at Peterson's efforts at being not only a distraction from the problem, but a confirmation for the douchebags who wrote that letter of everything they believe about black people.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:10 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'm not defending the school at all. I think its bullshit the rich white dudes got upset about her pic. It was a bad joke that was punching up. A little juvenile, but whatevs - she is a juvenile.

This is what I was objecting to:

I think it shows, among many other things, that the attack on her was very probably a part of a much larger counter-revolutionary campaign.

The fact that a group like this exists at a place like Lawrenceville is not remotely evidence that there was some "Counter-Revolutionary" campaign against her.
posted by JPD at 2:14 PM on July 7


No, it's against the fact that she and others like her are even permitted to be there in the first place. Their pusillanimous milksop disclaimer of "oh but of course diversity is awesome lol" doesn't mitigate the fact that they are angry that minorities are being given a voice.
posted by elizardbits at 2:16 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I'm not defending the letter or the people who wrote it. But to assume it had anything to do with what happened to her requires assuming the school leadership was somehow complicit with the troglodytes.
posted by JPD at 2:18 PM on July 7


Of course they are, if they're still letting in "legacies" at all.
posted by NoraReed at 2:20 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


a confirmation for the douchebags who wrote that letter of everything they believe about black people.

I see nothing about her being a dirty, sexually voracious, lower-class, biologically and socially inferior welfare queen and looter which is all the rage these days. That leads me to believe it's more that a black person had the gall to push back against papered-over problems of race (and to a somewhat lesser extent, gender and class and sexuality) in a manner un-befitting the genteel stock destined for America's finer babysitting centers of the rich and famous.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:25 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


everything they believe about black people.

Awesome?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:26 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


a confirmation for the douchebags who wrote that letter of everything they believe about black people.

Peterson's not responsible for the racist beliefs or behaviors of current Lawrenceville students, never mind alumni. If they believe black people are [insert negative stereotype here], that's on them, not her. It's not up to her to change them. It's up to them to change themselves.
posted by immlass at 2:28 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


Fighting racism does not equal black people just need to be perfect until white people realize omg racism is false.

When a black person does something you don't like that doesn't undermine The Cause.

What undermines the fight against racism is shit like putting burdens on black people like "if you ever fuck up, some guy will show up to tell you it's now kind of your fault that people aren't focusing enough on fighting racism."
posted by prefpara at 2:35 PM on July 7 [27 favorites]


How does "don't post a photo mocking a segment of the student body when you are class president" equal "black people need to be perfect"?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:43 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Because of "I facepalm at Peterson's efforts at being not only a distraction from the problem, but a confirmation for the douchebags who wrote that letter of everything they believe about black people."

Your reaction to this is, ugh! What she did was a bad!

That's how you're coming across: I mean gosh the racism stuff is important too. But the real issue here is: how has Peterson hurt the cause with her mistake?????
posted by prefpara at 2:47 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Finding rationalizations for racism is like the A number 1 jam of racists. If they weren't crying about Peterson, they'd just find some other bullshit reason not to fix their racism. The 'yeah but her Instagram tho' narrative just helps them bullshit.
posted by amery at 2:55 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


One thing that I think bears repeating is that Lawrenceville isn't just some kind of interchangeable out-of-touch New England town. It is a mostly white (85% white, 4% black), very wealthy, very safe suburb (the median income is $75K) that is right next to Trenton, an economically-disadvantaged and majority African-American (26% white, 52% black) city where long-simmering racial tensions boiled over into rioting after MLK Jr.'s assassination, followed by white flight. Driving up Rt. 206 is a particularly surreal experience because it literally takes you straight from downtown Trenton directly to a beautifully manicured prep school campus with buildings that look like like this. Race and racism are not remote, abstract, or historical ideas in that part of New Jersey.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:56 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


It's telling that the racists keep pulling out this "but she MOCKED her CONSTITUENTS" bullshit without noting that what she was mocking them for was their flagrant racism and misogyny, which the school basically addressed with lip service. They deserve to be mocked by anyone who wants to mock them. The mocking of privileged white boys is a societal good and will remain as such until the idea of "legacy students" starts getting the same amount of shit that the ideas of affirmative action and diversity requirements get now.
posted by NoraReed at 3:21 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


"few people can hate so bitterly and so self-righteously as the members of a ruling caste which is being dispossessed" - from The Once and Future King by T. H. White.

I attended a school similar Lawrenceville, and have worked with others professionally. Although L'ville is known for being behind the curve, my experience is that the faculty and administrators at the nation's top prep schools are largely authentically committed to diversity, even if they don't quite know how to handle that change. The students have already changed and it's great to see. Part of the evolution is driven by college admissions, which is the holy grail, and part of it is societal and old people dying, just like the rest of the country. The reason legacies aren't getting in as easily is that legacies to Princeton and Yale aren't getting in as easily, either.

As the letter from the alum shows, the school has changed. The old guard clearly sees it and feels it, and they still have some power left, but not nearly as much as they'd like, hence the plaintive tone, the dog whistles, the desperation.

I love how this girl challenged them openly, using the tools (social media, satire) at her disposal. Any white, male, priveleged but non-racist student should not take offense.
posted by cell divide at 3:33 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


What happened was really a tad over the top, but you know, it's a learning experience, he's young and boys will be boys after all.

What!?!!
Female?
And Black?

Get her ass outta there. There's no excuse for this kind of thing.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:40 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


[Comment removed, cut it out.]
posted by cortex at 4:38 PM on July 7


That's how you're coming across: I mean gosh the racism stuff is important too. But the real issue here is: how has Peterson hurt the cause with her mistake?????

Why can't we talk about both? The FPP post is primarily about the picture and the fall-out from the picture. Am I not allowed to say that I think it was a mistake? (Teenagers + social networks = disaster) I'm not suggesting that the picture will result in a resurgence of Jim Crow or anything, but it's not going to do her any favors.

This is an honest question. Should Peterson's actions be free of consequences because racism exists?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 4:42 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


You said more than that you thought the picture was a mistake. You expressed concern that it would make it harder for other black people. This puts the burden on black people to behave perfectly, as if that is the answer to racism.
posted by prefpara at 4:47 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I do think that lapses make it harder for other black people. That's not my personal judgment or criticism, but a pragmatic view of the way I think racists' minds work. It's the same way that I get particularly irked at Obama (who I support and voted for twice) in a way that I might not for a President who didn't have as much to prove. There's just so much riding on him.

So I'm not placing a burden on anyone -- in a perfect world, people would be allowed to make mistakes without larger consequences.

It's like the difference between Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus before Rosa Parks was, but she was 15 years old and pregnant, and the NAACP decided to support Rosa Parks instead because they thought the other issues would be a distraction. Fair? No. But it's a pragmatic recognition of reality.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 4:55 PM on July 7


But, dude, you're not the NAACP, and we're not making strategic messaging decisions. It was fucked up that Colvin got arrested for violating a bullshit law, whether or not she was 15 and pregnant.

Peterson's Instagram zing was as edgy as Chees-It crackers or ranch dressing.

And let's go ahead and flip this: The reason why her classmates and the general maundering apologists are so upset is because she was fucking right and even the gummy clasp of her toothless joke was enough to cut their tissue-thin inbred skin.

Fuck, I'm tired of assholes like that making white people like me look bad.
posted by klangklangston at 5:00 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


It's like the difference between Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus before Rosa Parks was, but she was 15 years old and pregnant, and the NAACP decided to support Rosa Parks instead because they thought the other issues would be a distraction. Fair? No. But it's a pragmatic recognition of reality.

Rosa Parks was already an active member of the NAACP and a dedicated activist.
posted by sweetkid at 5:17 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I do think that lapses make it harder for other black people. That's not my personal judgment or criticism, but a pragmatic view of the way I think racists' minds work.

That really isn't how racists' minds work. You've heard about the research that shows that if you present actual evidence that people's political opinions are wrong, it tends to firm up their wrong opinions, right? Racism is all about that sort of thing. At best, if you present a racist with an absolutely perfect exemplar of the race they dislike, they'll say, "Well, that's one of the good ones," and change their minds about exactly zero of the rest of that race. But it's more likely they'll find something new to dislike, such as "Yeah, but why does that astronaut heart surgeon philanthropist with a Medal of Honor have to be all up in my grill about his race?'"
posted by Etrigan at 5:19 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


So here's the thing about respectability politics. It's a really big barrier that stops non-privileged people from taking on positions of power or authority. White, middle-class, straight etc. dudes don't have to worry about it. If they're not perfect or they fuck up, they're not hurting anyone but themselves. But black people, women, LGBT people? They'd better be sure they're really perfect before they run for student body president, because if not, they're going to be responsible not just for fucking up their own lives but also for ruining things for everyone like them. They have to be much, much better than the privileged candidates, or otherwise they should just sit it out. And since pretty much nobody is perfect, that means that you're going to have tons of straight, white, middle-class etc. dudes running for things, and you're not going to have very many people who aren't similarly privileged. Respectability politics is a really effective way of making sure that most people in positions of power are straight, white, etc. dudes. And that's fucked up. That's not pragmatic. It's ugly.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:25 PM on July 7 [28 favorites]


Rosa Parks was already an active member of the NAACP and a dedicated activist.

This, exactly. Colvin wasn't pregnant at the time that she was arrested, she was a major witness in Browder v Gayle, and Rosa Parks's protest and the subsequent boycott was meticulously planned by the NAACP. There was an element of respectability politics in play, but it was considerably more complicated than that they dropped Colvin spontaneously when a more "better" candidate magically fell out of the sky.
posted by kagredon at 5:37 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


take your pick of "a 'better' candidate" or "a more 'respectable' candidate"
posted by kagredon at 5:44 PM on July 7


Why can't we talk about both? [...] Should Peterson's actions be free of consequences because racism exists?

She had to step down as president and she's getting excoriated on the national level for the crime of being a black woman who dared to remind people that the US didn't magically become post-racial fifty years ago like most of America wants to pretend. So I'm not sure why we're talking about there being no consequences.

Because racism exists, people of color are held to impossible standards and have to pay unfair consequences all day every day. The idea Peterson is somehow getting the long end of the stick because racism is absurd.

'Talk[ing] about both' as if they're comparable is a false equivalence. It draws a parallel between structural racism and someone putting a pretty tame joke photo on Instagram in the midst of a concentrated smear campaign against her, as if those two things are in any way the same.
posted by amery at 5:46 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


Should Peterson's actions be free of consequences because racism exists?

Should the actions of the students who ran the smear campaign against her be free of consequences? How about the ones calling their fellow students "Trayvon", or the ones with the Confederate flags? Why is the female black student the one who receives consequences?
posted by immlass at 6:04 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I love how this girl challenged them openly, using the tools (social media, satire) at her disposal.

Even if we allow that her Instagram post was not itself racist, or perhaps conclude that black-on-white racism should be of little concern compared to its reciprocal, must we celebrate Maya for an act that was so clumsily done, so poorly targeted, and so needlessly divisive?

If Maya was concerned about the prevalence of Confederate flags on campus, for example, she might have posted a collage of photographs of such flags, and tagged it with something like "Celebrating Slavery #TheLawrencevilleWay."

Dressing herself as a mockery of a privileged white male, and tagging that photograph with words like "#romney2016", "#confederate", and (reportedly) a reference to a specific Lawrenceville house/hall, as if every boy in that house canvassed for Romney and keeps a confederate flag in his sock drawer, was hardly a constructive use of social media.

I am no Republican, but even ignoring the "pucksluts" tag and the reference to that specific house, equating "#romney2016" and "#confederate" is offensive enough. 47.2% of the population voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Does Maya Peterson consider them all racists?
posted by The Confessor at 6:09 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


She should have used #notallwhitemen and that would've made everything better?
posted by rtha at 6:22 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


"must we celebrate Maya for an act that was so clumsily done, so poorly targeted, and so needlessly divisive?"

As much as we celebrate you for loading a question, I suppose.

I mean, you're clumsily arguing, your ostensible target of opprobrium won't read you, and you're provoking further argument here.

"If Maya was concerned about the prevalence of Confederate flags on campus, for example, she might have posted a collage of photographs of such flags, and tagged it with something like "Celebrating Slavery #TheLawrencevilleWay.""

If you were so concerned about her protest, you might have written a letter to an editor, or even to Lawrenceville yourself — I mean, you are saying that the real issue is the Confederate flags, right? So why aren't you doing more to bring the flags down at Lawrenceville?

"Dressing herself as a mockery of a privileged white male, and tagging that photograph with words like "#romney2016", "#confederate", and (reportedly) a reference to a specific Lawrenceville house/hall, as if every boy in that house canvassed for Romney and keeps a confederate flag in his sock drawer, was hardly a constructive use of social media."

I assume that your twitter feed is simply retweets with #constructive and #unconstructive added? Further, if this is what concerns you, what are you doing about it? Have you reached out Lawrenceville to offer your services as a social media consultant?

As for the dorm, might there also be boys who live there who can recognize the stereotype without feeling included in it? Maybe even have a laugh?

"I am no Republican, but even ignoring the "pucksluts" tag and the reference to that specific house, equating "#romney2016" and "#confederate" is offensive enough. 47.2% of the population voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Does Maya Peterson consider them all racists?"

Republicans still run on a platform of racial resentment, and have since they peeled off the Southern Democrats in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act. Besides, we always hear about the #NotAllConfederates who fought for the noble lost cause and weren't at all racist, right?

And hell, Romney's concession remarks were pretty racist.
posted by klangklangston at 6:26 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


The Confessor, asking why she didn't attack the Confederate flag issue in a certain way you'd have found to be more suitable comes off as kind of textbook 'splaining. The whole point is that any jab at the status quo is always going to be "needlessly divisive" because that's exactly the way in which the status quo sucks. If you aren't in her same pressure cooker of macro- and microagressive oppression, it's a really bad look to chide Peterson for responding to relentless racism and misogyny too "clumsily." Nobody else, including the administration, was doing anything, artful or clumsy.


And no, putting #romney2016 next to #confederate is not even offensive, let alone "offensive enough."
posted by Corinth at 6:28 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


Tagging a photo #romney2016 and #confederate is in no way comparable to the widespread structural oppression of black people. It is in no way comparable to hanging Confederate flags and calling black people 'Trayvon' because all black people are interchangeable and can be killed whenever we want lol. It is in no way comparable to people taking and circulating half-naked photos of Peterson without her consent.

I have no interest in pretending otherwise so people can feel better about racism and sexism. I have no interest in implying that I can live Peterson's life better than she can, and I double dog have no interest in turning the conversation, yet again, into how an oppressed minority is doing their oppression wrong.
posted by amery at 6:33 PM on July 7 [17 favorites]


What's the name for that thing where people from marginalized groups are impossibly nitpicked and held to bullshit, stratosphere-level standards that white men would never be subjected to? I just ask because I'm thinking of adding a screenshot of The Confessor's last comment to its wiki page.
posted by NoraReed at 6:39 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


Anybody who'd criticize Maya Peterson for posting that Instagram is the same kind of person who would root for James Spader in Pretty in Pink or Ted Knight in Caddyshack. This is definitely about race, but it's also about some snobs that need to be taken down a peg.
posted by jonp72 at 6:42 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


What's the name for that thing where people from marginalized groups are impossibly nitpicked and held to bullshit, stratosphere-level standards that white men would never be subjected to?

america
posted by elizardbits at 7:10 PM on July 7 [25 favorites]


Clumsy? poorly targeted? needlessly divisive?????

Confessor, you are taking your script from every (unconsciously?) racist white liberal who got upset at Black people when they ran their own movement, spoke out, or did whipsmart things like Peterson's photo. You sound really retrograde, here. It's not on you to figure out how people of color should be fighting racism -- you are responsible for working with the white kids who made her comments possible (bracketing the whole misleading issue of 'appropriate').

Really, really; the whole "divisiveness" argument is such a red herring in this bloody country -- have you seen any recent stats on life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration, employment, educational opportunity, that demonstrate that we are already divided beyond imagining?

Anyhow, I really came to say, it's Tamika Flynn vs. StrexCorp here, peeps -- you wanna suggest that Tamika's use of the slingshot was "inappropriate" or "divisive"?
posted by allthinky at 7:24 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


For the amount of discussion that's being generated, these articles are awfully dodgy and unclear.
posted by Maugrim at 7:28 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Even if we allow that her Instagram post was not itself racist

Remember that part of the thread where we were being assured that no one went so far as to say that Peterson's photo was racist, so dont bring up that strawman?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, folks need to cool it and that very much includes avoiding sudden veers into Let's Talk About Suicide Bombing.]
posted by cortex at 9:24 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


but cortex, if we don't have totally ridiculous swerves, how will we ever explain the finer points of rhetoric to black women?
posted by kagredon at 9:44 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


...and I thought that (un)comment was well-considered by my standards, and exercised somewhat more restraint at times than I would have preferred.

Feel free to MeMail me (or not), but I'd prefer not to experience yet another MetaTalk pile-on. My public contribution to this subject, such as it was, is ended.

posted by The Confessor at 9:48 PM on July 7


I suspect you could post what you originally wanted to without the suicide bombing bit, but I of course can't speak for the mod on duty.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:52 PM on July 7



"I don't even recall knowing who the school president was. We figured that stuff was for dorks."

I remember reading a critical essay of DC power people remarking something along
the lines of, "You didn't like these people in high school, they aren't any more
likeable now."
posted by Chitownfats at 10:52 PM on July 7


This is an honest question. Should Peterson's actions be free of consequences because racism exists?

Depends on the CONTEXT.

In this Context she openly mocked misogynists and racists by parody. Totally acceptable in the context of social commentary of existing issues. If you don't like her parody of the issue, then resolve the ROOT CAUSE of the issue and she wouldn't have motivation to mock it, would she?
posted by mikelieman at 3:40 AM on July 8


The reason why her classmates and the general maundering apologists are so upset is because she was fucking right and even the gummy clasp of her toothless joke was enough to cut their tissue-thin inbred skin.

Fuck, I'm tired of assholes like that making white people like me look bad.
posted by klangklangston at 8:00 PM on July 7 [10 favorites +] [!]
This. 1000 times.
posted by mikelieman at 3:46 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


If Maya was concerned about the prevalence of Confederate flags on campus, for example, she might have posted a collage of photographs of such flags, and tagged it with something like "Celebrating Slavery #TheLawrencevilleWay."

And everyone would jump all over her. There's no right way for her to do anything.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:25 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


In this Context she openly mocked misogynists and racists by parody.

In this Context she openly mocked residents of a particular dormitory and athletes who participate in a particular sport as misogynists and racists by parody.

Is that dormitory and/or that sport really particularly racist and misogynistic? Couldn't the point have been made without targetting particular groups (not marked out by wrongdoing) within the school body?
posted by Jahaza at 8:08 AM on July 8


Is that dormitory and/or that sport really particularly racist and misogynistic?

Is this a suggestion that there's an acceptable baseline of racism and misogyny which must be tolerated without taking offense? Is it measured in Standard International-Asshole Units?

Personally, I think -- given the existence of a response to it -- we can safely say it was greater-than 0.

I'm ok with a zero-tolerance attitude towards misogyny and racism. Mileage, of course varies.
posted by mikelieman at 8:13 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Is this a suggestion that there's an acceptable baseline of racism and misogyny which must be tolerated without taking offense? Is it measured in Standard International-Asshole Units?

The unit is the "allmen." As long as you're under 1.0 allmen, you're fine.
posted by Etrigan at 8:20 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


Couldn't the point have been made without targetting particular groups (not marked out by wrongdoing) within the school body?

Sometimes you get judged by the group you're part of. Cf: commentary upthread that Peterson's behavior reflects on all black people somehow.
posted by immlass at 8:22 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Is that dormitory and/or that sport really particularly racist and misogynistic?

Yes.

Next question.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:25 AM on July 8


How about the ones calling their fellow students "Trayvon", or the ones with the Confederate flags? Why is the female black student the one who receives consequences?

Because no one has any documentation of the alleged "Trayvon" calling or the alleged Confederate flags, as far as I know. If any of that had been posted on social media, the story would be links to 'em.

As for the dorm, might there also be boys who live there who can recognize the stereotype without feeling included in it? Maybe even have a laugh?


Given that any time someone says "Mefites are ______" or "Mefites have trouble with _______", you and most other Mefites react with shock, horror, and demands that so-and-so prove that every Mefite is guilty of the accusation, I'd say prolly not. I don't know why you expect every other community to be more thick-skinned than your own.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:35 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


we've had actual white male former Lawrentians who wrote that they are not surprised but still dismayed by the racism Maya described having experienced. And I'm sure there are current white male Lawrentian students who fit her parody who laughed.
posted by sweetkid at 8:41 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Because no one has any documentation of the alleged "Trayvon" calling or the alleged Confederate flags, as far as I know.

You may not know this but there was a picture distributed to the ENTIRE freshman class of Maya half-naked in her dorm room. It wasn't investigated.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:01 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I don't think this was linked yet: Maya Peterson interview, posted July 7.
posted by 0 at 9:17 AM on July 8


From that Maya Peterson interview above:

The problem with Lawrenceville and curriculum in the United States and probably abroad is that white history is required and the history of people of color and the history of people of different sexual orientations are seen as electives.
posted by mikelieman at 9:39 AM on July 8


that whole cocoafab interview is really great. She comes across really well to me.
posted by sweetkid at 9:46 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


In this Context she openly mocked residents of a particular dormitory and athletes who participate in a particular sport as misogynists and racists by parody.

And sweatshirt-wearers! Alert the police
posted by shakespeherian at 10:09 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


It's a new day, and I've taken another look at my interactions in this thread... and I wouldn't change a thing.

---

If you people1 argue that the words I am permitted to write, and the arguments I am permitted to make, are constrained by my race, or by my gender, or by my class, and refuse to recognize this as a form of racism, or sexism, or classism, then I hardly think it's worth engaging with you. The ideal that an argument should be considered on its merits is so foundational to the very concept of debate that it seems fruitless to have one in its absence.

---

And I never claimed that focusing on issues2 rather than the stereotype Maya employed would have been a panacea. Indeed, to extend something I wrote in my above (un)comment, if even a little of what Maya and her partisans allege is true, the deck was stacked against her.

To acknowledge an unpleasant reality, to account for it in the words that I write, is not to endorse or perpetuate it. I think peoples' confusion of these two things, both honest and (I must reluctantly conclude) disingenuous, is the root cause of the remaining dysfunctions in my interactions with this community.

So what, exactly, would have happened if Maya Peterson had focused on the issue rather than employing that clumsy stereotype? I can't say for sure; I can only speak in terms of likelihood and probabilities.

While it is likely Maya would have targeted for additional harassment by flag-hangers and their confederates, it is unlikely that Maya would have been ousted for a protest so specifically targeted at such a fraught symbol as the Confederate Flag.

It is likely that said flags would have been removed or moved to less visible locations, whether by voluntary action by the shamed students or some form of intervention by the administration, and possible that her protest might have led to a new policy (or enforcement of existing policy) forbidding any display of such symbols.

---

NoraReed

This is the only thing that I'm posting verbatim, or as near as memory can take me, from my (un)comment.

I don't think I've harassed you in any of my comments. I don't believe I've harassed anyone, except perhaps klangklangston. My characterization of his philosophy in this comment may have been unfair, although he has not replied to deny it.

I hope you are decent enough not to facilitate the harassment of myself.

---
  1. By which I refer to the people -- in perfect ignorance of their race or class, and near-perfect ignorance of gender so can we please forego the "gotcha" replies -- who have advanced such arguments in this thread, in deleted comments and those still extant.
  2. I focused specifically on the Confederate Flag issue because (a) it's a situation that could probably be documented if she so chose, (b) her allegation that confederate flags were prevalent on campus is supported by at least one other witness account, and (c) the presence of those flags is so utterly beyond the pale as to be indefensible. Seriously, you can't even get away with that these days in any public school I've heard of, where a ban would contend more directly with the issue of free speech.
posted by The Confessor at 11:22 AM on July 8


It's a new day, and I've taken another look at my interactions in this thread... and I wouldn't change a thing.

It's not about you, dude.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:26 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


the presence of those [Confederate] flags is so utterly beyond the pale as to be indefensible. Seriously, you can't even get away with that these days in any public school I've heard of, where a ban would contend more directly with the issue of free speech.

Are you aware that there are public schools in the South? Or, for that matter, that there is a state called South Carolina which mandates by law that the Confederate battle flag will fly at its Capitol building?

The accusation that people have Confederate flag paraphernalia is not nearly as "HOLY SHIT ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WHY ISN'T SOMEONE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS" as you think it is, even in New Jersey.
posted by Etrigan at 11:30 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


lol at white guys who think being called on their shit is harassment when it happens to them and their ilk but completely lack empathy for WOC responding to actual harassment and a microaggressive culture
posted by NoraReed at 11:31 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


Why do you always use the broadest brush possible, NoraReed?
posted by 0 at 11:44 AM on July 8


#notallwhiteguys
posted by sweetkid at 11:54 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I dig the footnotes dude.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:56 AM on July 8


I wouldn't call taking surreptitious half-naked pictures and distributing them a 'microaggression'. That's a pretty fucking huge violation.
posted by tavella at 11:57 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


If you people1 argue that the words I am permitted to write, and the arguments I am permitted to make, are constrained by my race, or by my gender, or by my class, and refuse to recognize this as a form of racism, or sexism, or classism, then I hardly think it's worth engaging with you.

I had a nice fat comment that explained this in detail last night, but I'll summarize: people in this thread may be using a different definition of "racism" et al than you are. This is contributing to the communication gap.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:00 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't call taking surreptitious half-naked pictures and distributing them a 'microaggression'. That's a pretty fucking huge violation.

Yeah, I should've specified that she had child pornography taken of her and distributed without her consent as well as dealing with harassment, a microaggressive culture, and generalized racist bullshit not targetted at her specifically.

But let's not forget the real victims here: the rich white jock boys she mocked on instagram.
posted by NoraReed at 12:03 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


That's the second use of the utter bullshit term "child pornography" in this thread. "Half naked" does not mean pornographic.

And since it's kind of been assumed that the source of the photo is "white guys", I'll note that it is far more likely that a female student took the picture than a male one, given the relative abundance of opportunities to snap the photo.
posted by 0 at 12:11 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Surreptitious photographing someone half naked with the intent to distribute isn't pornographic?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:14 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I should add, someone who is 17 years old.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:15 PM on July 8


I suggest you email around some noncon-taken photos of an underage girl in her underwear and then explain to the FBI how it's utter bullshit. Go on, we'll wait here.
posted by elizardbits at 12:15 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Oh also you should send these photos to other underage kids.
posted by elizardbits at 12:16 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


But let's not forget the real victims here: the rich white jock boys she mocked on instagram.

I just want to stress that I'm very opposed to racism and sexism and homophobia, it's just that I've never seen a situation that I couldn't rules-lawyer into suggesting that it doesn't count.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:16 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Yeah, because using the legal definition of "child pornography" is really rhetorically questionable. I'm sure there are lots of really good artistic reasons for distributing half-naked photos of a teenage girl without her consent.

Seriously, 0, if you want to find people who'll fall over themselves to justify the production and circulation of sexualized images of minors, may I suggest you go join reddit, instead of spending so much time trying to live up to your fucking username here?
posted by NoraReed at 12:18 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


That's not what I want, NoraReed. I want people to approach the discussion with a semblance of intellectual honesty.
posted by 0 at 12:22 PM on July 8


lol irl
posted by elizardbits at 12:23 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Then when start quibbling about the definition of child pornography? Why do you feel, SO STRONGLY, that nonconsensual photos of a half naked minor don't deserve that characterization? And why are you making that argument here?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:25 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I want people to approach the discussion with a semblance of intellectual honesty.

Such a semblance would require you to explain your apparent deep knowledge of the Lawrenceville dorm layout and access rules, for one.
posted by Etrigan at 12:26 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I'll note that it is far more likely that a female student took the picture than a male one, given the relative abundance of opportunities to snap the photo.

* "Peterson was frustrated that the school didn’t investigate her anonymous attackers, even after another scary incident in the winter, when someone sent an email to the freshman class containing photos of Peterson half naked in her room. Peterson had no idea where the sender had gotten those photos, she said, and the administration, while sympathetic, didn’t either — or didn’t tell her if they did."

I'm sure both genders have exactly the same abundant opportunities to take these photos, seeing as nobody knows how they happened. Seeing as website dedicated to shaming women by uploading photos of women in states of undress are almost all run and submitted to by men, and seeing as men are primarily the ones who take and share upskirts and related photos, I'd say that "far more likely" is, at best, an uncertain guess at this moment.
posted by maxsparber at 12:26 PM on July 8


Such a semblance would require you to explain your apparent deep knowledge of the Lawrenceville dorm layout and access rules, for one.

I think it's a fair assumption that Peterson lived with and was undressed around other women much more than around men. It would be much easier for the women in her dorm to take a quick smartphone photo than for a man to set up a hidden camera. This is pretty obvious, but I'm open to evidence to the contrary.
posted by 0 at 12:34 PM on July 8


I'm sure both genders have exactly the same abundant opportunities to take these photos

This is a total derail from the issues at hand but technically speaking, if L'ville is like every other boarding school, boys have limited visiting hours in girls' dorms and vice versa. Let's also not pretend that racial animosity is strictly a male thing, the photos could've been passed from a girl to a boy.
posted by cell divide at 12:34 PM on July 8


[Folks, rules-lawyering the hell out of the photography issue is a very strange derail that is probably best left to die here. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:37 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


The language is ambiguous enough that she could have taken the photos herself, as people sometimes do, and they were stolen off the phone, which could have been done by anybody of any gender at any time.

Not only is 0 not engaging in the sort of rigorously intellectually honest arguments he holds us up to with this weird little derail based entirely on guesswork, but it's actually a really shitty derail, because it serves to say "No, it's likely that WOMEN are at fault for this: in response to an unstated implication, never linked to or made explicit, that it must be men. In other words, the only function is to say "THIS TERRIBLE THING IS PROBABLY LESS TERRIBLE THAN YOU ALL ARE SAYING IT IS" which is also the function of refusing the term child pornography.

She had semi-naked photos of herself distributed as a tool of humiliation. Going Spock on this isn't demanding honest discussion, it is minimizing the event.
posted by maxsparber at 12:38 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


in response to an unstated implication, never linked to or made explicit, that it must be men

An implication made over and over and over again without basis and rebuttal so that it becomes part of accepted narrative. And it was made explicit actually.
posted by 0 at 1:00 PM on July 8


I agree, Maya comes off very well in that Cocoamag interview. She also confirms the general asymmetry of scrutiny to which her actions vs. her classmates' were subject, which is something that has been talked a lot about in this thread.

(FWIW, I also completely fail to understand why it even matters if a woman took the racy picture of her that was distributed around campus. Does that mean that she didn't really experience sexual harrassment? Does that mean that the act magically becomes cleansed of any sexist, homophobic, or racist motivation? Does that mean the environment she was in was any less hostile?)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:02 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


This is just a side note but the first-name thing really rubs me the wrong way-- using the first name of someone instead of the surname (as most journalists use) is one of those techniques people occasionally use to be patronizing (or occasionally overly familiar) and is disproportionately used towards women and people of color, particularly Black people. I doubt everyone who's calling her Maya instead of Peterson in this thread is intentionally trying to be microaggressive, but it's a thing to avoid if you don't want to come off that way.
posted by NoraReed at 1:09 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I've been calling her Peterson in this thread but it's possible others are using her first name because she's a minor-- it's a decision I made earlier but prolly could have gone either way.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:19 PM on July 8


Yup, fair enough, NoraReed, my bad there.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:37 PM on July 8


A ctrl+f reveals that I appear to be a primary offender in overusing Ms. Peterson's first name. It was in my case not a technique, but merely because her first name was easier to recall and type in my sleep-deprived state. Rather than Peterson and Lawrenceville, my brain kept spitting out Anderson(ville) instead, which is just really, really, weird.

If I should write another comment here, I will be sure to use her surname.

posted by The Confessor at 2:09 PM on July 8


I understand wanting to rhetorically underline how fucked up it is to circulate half-dressed photos of Peterson, but "child pornography" is a term that it's worth being scrupulous with, and without more info here I don't think it's reasonable to use it.

That's in part because consent isn't what determines child pornography, and it's possible to pass around photos to humiliate someone without there being a sexual intent. Likewise, I disagree with treating 18 as a bright line between child pornography and adult pornography. It's similar to why statutory rape statutes aren't an unvarnished good, especially since they tend to get enforced more on LGBT people and people of color.
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


That's in part because consent isn't what determines child pornography, and it's possible to pass around photos to humiliate someone without there being a sexual intent.

Assuming that passing a photo of a teenaged girl in partial undress out to her classmates to humiliate her has no sexual element also seems like a stretch, though. The fact that she's female and naked inherently makes her sexual (in some people's eyes), which is part of the humiliation. It seems closer to revenge porn featuring a minor except there's no proven element of prior relationship (because the school didn't run it down, wtf, because legally it probably actually is child porn?).

Also, that Cocoamag interview is great.
posted by immlass at 3:17 PM on July 8


I understand wanting to rhetorically underline how fucked up it is to circulate half-dressed photos of Peterson, but "child pornography" is a term that it's worth being scrupulous with, and without more info here I don't think it's reasonable to use it.

Potato-pahtahto. I'd like to see those overzealous cops from "To Catch a Predator" tackle the shit out of those responsible for transmitting and publicizing a nude photo of a high school student.

Also, good on the school for protecting those white boys. Lord knows they didn't just reinforce that kind of behavior and they probably learned their lesson. Just another case of "white boys will be white boys".
posted by hal_c_on at 3:44 PM on July 8


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