Amherst Soul attempts to capture the scope of the Amherst College experience. In addition to written reflections and poetry, we also showcase photography, studio art, dance, spoken word, music, and other creative, expressive means.

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Staff - Fall 2015
Creative Writing
Soul Abroad
What We Stand For
Yenifer Mezquita ‘16E with Sharline Dominguez ‘17E
Part 2 of 2.  
In this interview for the Amherst Soul Spotlights series, Sharline Dominguez ‘17E of the Amherst Soul team hosts a conversation with Yenifer Mezquita ‘16E. They discuss a variety of issues on campus: a new mural of Mezquita in the Dean of Students Office, the possibilities and problems of artistic production, the Dominican-American experience, Afro-Latinx identity, and the potential for a Latino Studies major at Amherst College.
“I think saying that you’re an Afro-Latina is a political statement more than anything, and just acknowledging that I have a stake in the conversation…I think it’s really important for me to acknowledge my blackness. I think it’s important for other people to see me acknowledge my blackness.”
Yenifer Mezquita ‘16E with Sharline Dominguez ‘17E
Part 1 of 2.  
In this interview for the Amherst Soul Spotlights series, Sharline Dominguez ‘17E of the Amherst Soul team hosts a conversation with Yenifer Mezquita ‘16E. They discuss a variety of issues on campus: a new mural of Mezquita in the Dean of Students Office, the possibilities and problems of artistic production, the Dominican-American experience, Afro-Latinx identity, and the potential for a Latino Studies major at Amherst College. 
“I think saying that you’re an Afro-Latina is a political statement more than anything, and just acknowledging that I have a stake in the conversation…I think it’s really important for me to acknowledge my blackness. I think it’s important for other people to see me acknowledge my blackness.” 
*Correction: Yenifer’s major was mistaken in the opening of the video. Her major is Black Studies, not American Studies. 

We are the Future: Black Queer Existence as Science Fiction

Matt Randolph ‘16
This article is an excerpt from an original blog post by the author. It is part of a larger blog series of academic reflections for Professor Polk’s “Black Sexualities” Course at Amherst College.
As a history major, I often think about the Black-American experience as one rooted firmly in the past. To understand our identities and our story as a people, it seemed that all that was necessary was a thorough look at the histories of transatlantic slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement, among other narratives and movements. However, how much does looking back prevent us from thinking about what our identities could mean in the future? It’s important to understand the past to appreciate who we are today, but we have to be capable of taking that next step in reimagining the world we live in and what being black means so that we can experience a more fulfilling life.
Yesterday, we ended our “Black Sexualities” course discussing Afrofuturism and its relevance to the study of Black Sexualities. It was the first time I had a sustained intellectual discussion about not just the future of blackness, but what black sexuality specifically could mean in the future. Through that discussion, I realized that being queer (and by queerness here, I’m talking about the kind of queerness that Cathy Cohen discusses in “Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics,” that comprehensively includes any marginalized people whose sexualities and identities are policed by structural systems of power and oppression, so that we see the common threads between the political experiences of heterosexual “welfare queens” and the LGBTQ community) means living in the present but being part of the future.
In 2014, I wrote an article in which I reflected on a speech given by queer activist and educator Kim Crosby at Amherst who talked about the relationship between queer sexualities and science fiction: 
“More importantly, she emphasized how being openly queer in a heteronormative world is in itself an act of imagining a new world; it’s practicing science fiction. Just being open and confident with who we are has a beneficial effect on other members of our community, but it also makes our world a better place by breaking down unacceptable structures of the status quo.”
Crosby suggests that simply being a black queer person is a revolutionary act of science fiction. I have often talked with my fellow LGBTQ friends of color about how we feel like we weren’t meant for the present, that the contemporary world isn’t ready for us and what we can offer, that the way society is set up cannot appreciate us. To me, the power of Afrofuturism then seems to be the capacity to imagine a new world in which blackness operates differently and how that re-imagination of blackness in a future world allows us to indirectly interrogate and critique social constructions and race relations both in the present day and in the past. Afrofuturism makes sense as a literary genre and framework relevant to a course about black sexualities because blackness and queerness already inhabit a marginalized yet resistant space in our contemporary social structure. Black sexuality in particular, whether queer or heterosexual, is a deviant reimagining and resistance of the socially sanctioned and respected white heteronormative relationships.
In class yesterday, we listened to Janelle Monáe's music video for her song “Q.U.E.E.N.” in class. I appreciated Monáe’s message that we must unconditionally love ourselves and be who we are, no matter how radical or discomforting it may seem to others. She rhetorically ask if others will approve of who she is or whether she should “reprogram” herself for others visions of blackness and respectability:
“Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven?
Say will your God accept me in my black and white?
Will he approve the way I’m made?
Or should I reprogram, deprogram and get down?”
Her song embodies an Afrofuturist aesthetic in the way it weaves historical issues in the black community with a forward-thinking re-imagination of what it means to be black. The liberation possible in black individualism, despite the hostility that it often invites, is a better alternative to conforming to how society wants you to be and behave. My unconditional embrace of my own existence, identity, agency, and sexuality as a black person offers the prospect of a new future, a new way of imagining the human experience and the normative social world.
Seher Sikandar for rehes creative [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons
*To read more about contemporary developments in Afrofuturism, check out the recent article on Slate about the movement and W.E.B. Du Bois. 
“Black and Blue / Mirror Keys”
Artist: The Black Condition
Filmed by Amherst Soul
The group “The Black Condition” was formed specifically to perform at Harlem Ren - we (Emmanuel Osunlana ‘18, Michael Dwyer '18, Warren Thimothe '18, Amal Buford '19, Gregory Clark '19, and Joshua White '19), as artists and performers, understand the critical role that music can play in representing personal and group experience, especially concerning Black America. We chose to cover “Black and Blue,” composed by Fats Waller and famously performed by Louis Armstrong, because of the continued and unfortunate relevance of its lyrics and the intimate relationship between black Americans and jazz, and combined it with the original song “Mirror Keys,” a rap song which reflects both the jazz roots of rap and the importance of rap to the modern black American experience. As a group, we have since expanded to include Isaiah Lewis '19 and hope to continue writing and performing music.
Sharline Dominguez ‘17E
Voices 2015 - Slam Competition 
From the moment I was birthed,
Stories of travail followed me like,
Nobody’s business, until,
A serpent slithering across grass,
Its snout deep in dirt, hissing loudly into the ears of those who’ve been dragged,
Amassed and ordered to work,
Rhythmically, methodically, until Papi says fuck you,
And then he’s by his lonesome,
And he grows bitter towards a system we call,
A system that drowns the serpents from the time of my birth,
When from underneath Mami’s breasts, I picked up
The weight of her flesh, pressing hard against walls,
Walls that confine brown and black women like her,
Till her fucking nails grow short enough for her not to dig herself out,
Liar, Aw-mar-reeka is that liar I learned to speak to my sister about,
Cuídate, no dejes que te toman por idiota, por supuesto que el papasito esta en el cielo,
God who lives upstairs is protecting you mi’ja, el Dios,
Pero odiosa era ella, and I was old enough to ask why,
Until the day I peered into Mami’s eyes and saw God,
Thinking, thinking, how that whole time Aw-mar-reeka managed to,
To put up that well-crafted façade.
Now come give me a taste of that golden soup you make for immigrants like us,
Stories of travail have bothered me hard like,
Hot, boiled eggs in a ceramic pot that’s lost its luster,
Much like the luster lost in the eyes of the urban poor when they realize,
It’s all just a trap, when getting out the hood,
Is no better than being misunderstood, even as a child who was up to all that was good,
But you see hermanita, that
Aw-mar-reeka, the word you love to hate,
And the world I once knew as “los estados” ain’t so stable anymore.
J. Cole say “don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved,”
And I wear that on my chest cuz I’m beyond saving,
Where were you when my people were fooled into believing they could be saved by a superior race?
You say I’m too loud, too ‘ratchet,’
And you don’t even know my mindset,
Swinging hips, with the dangling gold hoops,
Too many Brooklyn summers I spent sitting on front stoops.
Can you hear me now?
Mami got an accent, but that don’t mean she stupid,
These uppity fucks don’t see her, they just say she not lucid.
Hear me out, my words drip like liquid gold,
Far from that degrading verbiage from which you claim no knowledge unfolds.

How does it feel to be a stigma? - Religion, HIV, and the Black LGBTQ Experience

Matt Randolph ‘16 
This article is an excerpt from an original blog post by the author. It is part of a larger blog series of academic reflections for Professor Polk’s “Black Sexualities” Course at Amherst College.
There are many reasons I always try to distinguish between religion and faith/spirituality. Growing up Catholic in Maryland, there are several lessons that I learned from my church. I greatly appreciated the power of a church congregation to foster a sense of community and belonging among Black-Americans. What I learned through church leaders and the Bible informed how I fashioned my own moral compass. However, I’ve forged my own spirituality and morality through a combination of lessons from Christianity with philosophical ideas from Buddhism, fictional literature, world travel, and academic courses in high school and Amherst.
I identify with the empowering way my church community enhanced my degree of faith and spirituality, but I still have trouble embracing organized religion as an institution. As a gay black man, I know that Christian communities are often not spaces designed for me to be visible and celebrated. If it ever is my space, that often means I must silence or repress an important part of myself in order to be a part of it.
One of the hardest things about watching the documentary “The New Black: LGBT Rights and African-American Communities” (2013) for my Black Sexualities course was the consistent invisibility of the intersection of the LGBTQ community and the black community. The possibility of queer black people’s existence was often ignored or denied. Sexuality is a taboo subject in the black community and homosexuality in particular is repudiated as a contagious “ldquo;white man’s disease” (according to one pastor in the documentary) that infected the black community (this seemed eerily similar to how some Christian and political leaders in African nations imagine queerness as a Western cultural import). 
It was disheartening to know that so many black religious leaders could ignore the impact of that their campaign against same-sex marriage could have on black children whose parents happen to be two men or two women. Many of the black leaders opposing same sex-marriage talked about how same-sex marriage would redefine a sacred institution and how the preservation of the institution would reduce additional damage to the (already broken) state of the black family. But how can you talk about looking out for the black family when you are preventing families from forming and denying them economic and legal equality? Haven’t black families been through so much already since slavery that the last thing we should do as a community is make life even harder for black queer parters and their children? 
The entire documentary reminded me of a meme I shared on Facebook the other day that argued that if you are pro-black, but anti-gay, you are seeking privilege rather than equality. The black opponents of same sex-marriage believed that homosexuality was a choice, rather than an inherent, unchangeable characteristic like race and skin tone. In the documentary, this privileging of phenotypical identities over more abstract identities like sexuality in civil rights discourse sought to undermine the authenticity of black queer people’s experience. As one of the main organizers featured in the documentary asked her religious foster mother, why would one willingly choose to live under discrimination and marginalization?
Matt Randolph ‘16 
A reading of Langston Hughes’s “Will V-Day Be Me-Day, Too?” for the Amherst College Black Student Union’s Harlem Renaissance event (11/07/15).
Introduction: “In the 1940s, Langston Hughes wrote a poem called “Will V-Day Be Me-Day, Too?” about the black experience in military service during World War II. Clearly, the poem relates to tonight’s rendition of the Harlem Renaissance because the writer is a well-known poet of that artistic moment in American history. However, it should be noted that this particular work is produced much later in a different historical context than the 20s: in the 1940s during WWII. The poem Matt has chosen explores themes of racial inclusion and acceptance in American society: specifically, it speaks to how the black men who served in the military were often not celebrated upon their return to the U.S., but rather vehemently discriminated against and even lynched in uniform in some cases. These themes connect to the tragic and ironic flaw of the Cotton Club as a night club in Harlem that intentionally invited and celebrated black performers yet barred black participation as guests. Black soldiers can fight abroad to protect other Americans. Black performers can entertain White Americans in New York City. But what does it mean to be American if you can fight in a war (and even win) yet still be lynched upon returning to your home country? What does it mean to perform at a musical venue like the Cotton Club if your own family can’t be there to support you?” 
“Dear Fellow Americans,
I write this letter
Hoping times will be better
When this war
Is through.
I’m a Tan-skinned Yank
Driving a tank.
I wear a U. S. uniform.
I’ve done the enemy much harm,
I’ve driven back
The Germans and the Japs,
From Burma to the Rhine.
On every battle line,
I’ve dropped defeat
Into the Fascists’ laps.
I am a Negro American
Out to defend my land
Army, Navy, Air Corps—
I am there.
I take munitions through,
I fight—or stevedore, too.
I face death the same as you do
I’ve seen my buddy lying
Where he fell.
I’ve watched him dying
I promised him that I would try
To make our land a land
Where his son could be a man—
And there’d be no Jim Crow birds
Left in our sky.
So this is what I want to know:
When we see Victory’s glow,
Will you still let old Jim Crow
Hold me back?
When all those foreign folks who’ve waited—
Italians, Chinese, Danes—are liberated.
Will I still be ill-fated
Because I’m black?
Here in my own, my native land,
Will the Jim Crow laws still stand?
Will Dixie lynch me still
When I return?
Or will you comrades in arms
From the factories and the farms,
Have learned what this war
Was fought for us to learn?
When I take off my uniform,
Will I be safe from harm—
Or will you do me
As the Germans did the Jews?
When I’ve helped this world to save,
Shall I still be color’s slave?
Or will Victory change
Your antiquated views?
You can’t say I didn’t fight
To smash the Fascists’ might.
You can’t say I wasn’t with you
in each battle.
As a soldier, and a friend.
When this war comes to an end,
Will you herd me in a Jim Crow car
Like cattle?" 
Source: (Langston Hughes, “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?”)
Amira Lundy-Harris ‘16 
Introduction: “In 1926, Langston Hughes wrote “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” an essay that speaks to the relationship between race and artistic production. Are black artists responsible for producing black art? At what point does not wanting to be defined by one’s race leave the realm of individualism and enter the realm of shame and self-hatred? This essay asks us to consider how the excessive elevation of Eurocentric culture by Black-Americans has historically prevented us from seeing the beauty and power in our own history and community. The Cotton Club was a historic space in Harlem where black performers had to entertain according to the standards and sensibilities of white spectators. Tonight, we can reclaim the Cotton Club and reimagine artistic spaces in which performers, especially those of color, can achieve an unapologetic appreciation and expression of our cultures.”
-Written jointly by Amira Lundy-Harris ‘16 and Matthew Randolph ‘16
(The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, 1926)
The inaugural Amherst Soul Spotlight featuring Amherst College senior Matt Randolph ‘16 of Amherst Soul and guest Lerato Teffo ’18 (Major: Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies).
Matt and Lerato chat about diversity, race, gender, and student activism from Amherst College to South Africa.
“We really don’t want people to forget that it was women of color that started this because so many times in history, our voices have been silenced.” - Lerato

To My Sistahs

(After Sonia Sanchez’s poem To Anita)
Whitney Beber ‘16
The poem is one reflection I had on Amherst Uprising, and attempt to try and make visible the women who nurtured and gave birth to a movement yet were largely rendered invisible time and time again and in some cases demonized.
Sonia Sanchez (Photo Credit: Marion Ettlinger)
coursing like the river u be
move right along
those who ridicule yo/ tone of voice
have not moved to the love
we be about
cuz as Zora Hurston be sayen
“those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”
sing black/woman
cuz some of us be lovin’ yo soulful/voice
and some of 
us be seein’ you too

Statement of Support to Amherst Uprising from the Amherst College Chemistry Department

Submitted to Amherst Soul on November 17, 2015 by the Amherst College Chemistry Department. 
The faculty and staff in the Chemistry Department have been inspired by the courageous and moving testimony of our students during the events of Amherst Uprising. We are passionately committed to creating a safe and nurturing environment for every one of our students. We also understand that we have failed in this commitment in the past, and we promise to listen and respond to the concerns of every one of our students. We recommit ourselves to supporting the success of every one of our students, here at Amherst and beyond. We decry prejudice in any form, and we recommit ourselves to the ideals and full implementation of the Amherst College Statement on Respect for Persons, which reads:
Respect for the rights, dignity and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community. Actions by any person which do not reflect such respect for others are damaging to each member of the community and hence damaging to Amherst College. Each member of the community should be free from interference, intimidation or disparagement in the work place, the classroom and the social, recreational and residential environment.
In particular—and of particular relevance at the moment—we pledge that we will not tolerate disparagement or intimidation of any student or of any member of the staff or faculty in our classrooms, laboratories, offices, and common spaces.
Richmond J. Ampiah-Bonney Anthony C. Bishop
Joseph M. Boucher
Sandra L. Burkett
Dylan R. Donovan Kristi Evenson-Ohr David E. Hansen
Sheila S. Jaswal
Joseph N. Kushick Helen O. Leung
Mark D. Marshall Shelly A. Martin Patricia B. O’Hara Lauren M. Reutenauer Kenneth S. Rotondi Catherine A. Stillerman Elizabeth R. Young

Letter from the Department of Art and the History of Art

Submitted to Amherst Soul on November 16, 2015 by the Amherst College Department of Art and the History of Art. 
Dear Students and Amherst College Community,
We, the faculty of the Department of Art and the History of Art, write to support #AmherstUprising’s efforts to bring racial equality and inclusivity for all marginalized students to Amherst College.
We have been inspired by the students’ readiness to speak out against racial injustice, bias, and prejudice. We recognize these courageous undertakings as creative acts: they seek to bring into being new ways of seeing, doing, and knowing that would not otherwise evolve by ordinary processes. It is our hope that the difficult conversations that students have broached will be met with understanding and respect, and that these discussions will reverberate across campus to effect needed change. We support systemic change at the College.
For our part, the recent events have already caused us to bring a more critical eye to the materials and methods with which we teach, to acknowledge and incorporate a greater multiplicity of experiences, perspectives, histories, and practices. We welcome this challenge.
Yours in solidarity,
The Amherst College Department of Art and the History of Art
Robert Sweeney, Chair
Rowland Abiodun
Brianne Cohen
Nicola Courtright
Douglas Culhane
Wendy Ewald
Betsey Garand
David Gloman
Carol Keller
Justin Kimball
Adam Levine
Nicholas Meyer
Samuel Morse
Yael Rice
Natasha Staller
Photo Credit: (“Fayerweather Hall, home of the Department of Art and the History of Art, Amherst College”) 

Va-moose to Jeff: Some Final Facts and Thoughts on Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the Lord Jeffs, and the Debate, Itself

Blaine Patrick Werner, Jr. ‘15
As far as I can tell, there has been no formally written history of the debate around the mascot. While there are several histories of Lord Jeffrey Amherst and the history of the mascot that have been written and published in the archives, I took the liberty of going through issues of The Amherst Student from 1979 to 2010 to get as complete of a sense as possible of what has been discussed regarding the Lord Jeff mascot.
As I was reading through many of these articles, some historical events about concerning Lord Jeffrey Amherst and the mascot came up, so I have included them in the hopes that they will add a little more color to the debate. In this article, my ultimate hope is to disseminate as much information about Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the Lord Jeff mascot, and the history of the debate as possible, as well as the arguments of both sides of the debate and my own personal thoughts on this issue. Part informational, part think-piece, if you will. I also look to include the sentiment on campus, as articles from The Student at least seem to demonstrate, regarding the Jeff mascot on campus over the years (spoiler: someone started dressing up as him in 1980, and people made fun of him for years; the Jeff has not been this glorious mascot celebrated by the college for a century, as some people I have spoken with appear to think).
You all have a big decision to make tomorrow, and my hope is that the more information you have, the more informed decision you can make, keeping in mind that it does not need to be the moose (who may be more thought of as the mascot of the anti-Jeff people rather than the mascot of our College); just not the Jeff.
One quick note about my research: I relied entirely on articles from The Amherst Student in formulating these histories. A more formal investigation of the particular events I bring up ought to be investigated, but I think this presents most of the relevant information regarding Lord Jeffrey and the mascot. Also, due to an urgency to get this published as soon as possible, this article is not properly cited. I have included references to particular articles in The Amherst Student for more significant points of information, but since I did not find any conflicting evidence, I am comfortable publishing this article without complete citations. If you are interested in where I found specific points of information, I am happy to look through my notes and determine which article was used.
Lord Jeffrey Amherst
Jeffrey Amherst was born in Riverhead, England in 1717. At the Battle of Louisburg in the Seven Years’ War, Amherst and one of his officers, Wolfe, had a large hand in the surrender of the French on July 26, 1758. As a result of this victory, which was celebrated in all the English colonies and in London, General Amherst was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the King’s forces in America. General Wolfe, acting under the command of Amherst, took the French stronghold of Quebec, only for many Frenchmen to escape up the river to Montreal. With the capture of Montreal (the peak of Amherst’s military career) in September 1760, the French surrendered all of Canada to England. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980)
After the Seven Years’ War, Amherst was named Governor General of British North America and resided in New York. Just before he was to return to England, Amherst was called upon to deal with a Native American uprising known as the Conspiracy of Pontiac. Amherst decided to end England’s policy of buying off the Native Americans to gain their favor. The Native Americans took Amherst’s move as a threat to their security and revolted. The uprising, which took many English and Native American lives, may have been averted if Amherst had acted differently. While Amherst was later able to bring the situation under control, it left a stain upon the glory of his earlier achievements in the eyes of his British contemporaries. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980).
His antipathy for Native Americans is widely documented. He wrote to Sir William Johnson, “…it would be happy for the Provinces if there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand miles of them…they being more nearly allied to the Brute than to the Human Creation.”
His interactions with the Native Americans were hardly fair. In 1760, Lord Jeffery Amherst gave 10,000 acres of Native American land near Niagara to fellow army officers, breaking an agreement of the English government that had guaranteed to the Iroquois in 1726. A few years later, he said that if the Native Americans did not become loyal subjects of George III, “They must not only expect the severest retaliation, but an entire destruction of all their nations, for I am firmly resolved, whenever they give me an occasion, to extirpate them root and branch.” Such final solution rhetoric is Third Reich-esque in its veto and inhumanity. (Amherst Student, Letter to editor, Dec 5, 1990).
While Amherst was kind to Native American tribes that were subdued and compliant, Amherst sought total annihilation for the tribes that resisted. In 1763, Amherst ordered Colonel Bouquet at Fort Pitt to quiet the native rebellion by taking no prisoners. Also, he had heard that smallpox had broken out at the fort and wondered if there were any possibility of spreading the disease to their advantage (“Could it not be Contrived to Send the Small Pox among those Disaffected Tribes of Indians,” Lord Jeffery Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet in a 1763 letter), to which Bouquet replied: “I will try to inoculate the bastards with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself. As it is a pity to expose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spanish methods, to hunt them with English dogs.” (Amherst Student, October 20, 1989). While it is unknown if this biological warfare was carried out, a few months later smallpox did break out “with unusual severity” among the Native Americans of the Ohio Valley. (Amherst Student, Letter to editor, Dec 5, 1990). There is some evidence that Amherst’s reputation was tarnished by this use of biological warfare, as soon after his order to Bouquet, Amherst retired from active duty (Amherst Student, October 20, 1989). For this reason, Amherst is credited with perpetuating genocide of Native Americans. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980).
In 1762, Amherst townspeople (this is after the town had been named after him) petitioned him to use his influence in securing a charter from the King to create a college. However, circumstances prevented him from doing so. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980). In 1763, Eleazor Wheelock submitted a request for a land grant on the Susquehanna River to create an academy. Amherst denied the request on due to a previous land grant deal that had gone awry. Wheelock later found a different benefactor who donated a tract on the Connecticut River and named the academy after the patron, Dartmouth. (Amherst Student, October 20, 1989)
At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Amherst was at his estate in England when the King asked him to act as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America. He turned it down but was consulted on military matters and became Commander-in-Chief of the army in England, which provided stores, ordinances, and supplies to the troops in America. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980).
In the nineteenth century, select members of Lord Amherst’s lineage were brought by the College from England to attend Amherst College events.
The Town of Amherst
The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, evolved from a town formerly known as East Hadley, or Hadley Farms, or East Farms. The name “Amherst” was suggested by the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, John Pownal. The official date “Amherst” emerged from East Hadley is February 13, 1759. (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980). A similar movement in New Hampshire at the same time led to the naming of a town there after Amherst, as well as a county in Virginia (where he was Royal Governor). (Amherst Student, October 20, 1989). Towns in a total of 15 states appear to be named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst.
The Lord Jeff
For a history of the development of the Lord Jeff mascot, please see I will hit on some of the highlights here:
James Shelley Hamilton wrote the song “Lord Jeffrey Amherst” (the song sung at many football games and glee club events) in 1905. He wrote the song as a tribute to the namesake of the college, similar to songs for Harvard and Williams’s namesakes. He was not necessarily a figure associated with the college then, but he was nonetheless there in the name.
It is believed that the Lord Jeff mascot gained in popularity as a result of the increased cooperation between England and the U.S. that emerged during and after WWI. Hamilton’s song became more popular during this time, and Lord Jeffrey’s name was used for the college inn and a college magazine. Lord Jeff began appearing as an athletic representation of the college in the ‘40s, like in the 1946 program for the Williams football game.
Amherst’s mascot was never shifted “from the Sabrina to the Jeff;” the College used both as mascots before eschewing the Sabrinas in favor of the Jeff along in the 1940s.
Public opinion about him has changed drastically over the years. In the 60s, students protested the dining hall china which depicted a mounted Lord Jeff chasing Native Americans around the border. Students objected to a satirical poster of Lord Jeff  that was modeled after the Uncle Sam “We Want You” poster (“Amherst Wants You”). (*personal note: I have one of these posters).
Someone started dressing up as Lord Jeff in 1980 because, according to the student who began dressing as him (John Whitney), “Amherst College was always lacking in the respect that it never had a mascot.” When he wore it for freshman orientation in 1980, people laughed at him, sent him hate mail, and threw water balloons at him. He also stated that he was looking forward to dressing up as Lord Jeff for a Williams game because after that, “people will finally accept that Amherst College has a mascot.” (Amherst Student, October 13, 1980).
(So, sure, people started treating some guy dressed up as an 18th-century British General as a mascot after a while, but the first gut reaction of many people was, as it still is today, that this is a laughable mascot.)
List of Lord Jeff Mascoters:
John Whitney ’82, 1980-1982
Joseph Califano ’85, 1982-?
Female Lord Jeff, ?
Mark Rabuck ’90, 1989
John Healy ’91, 1990
In 1990, an April Fool’s Day article was printed in the Student that was penned by the Ghost of Lord Jeffery Amherst. In the article, Lord Jeffery resigns his mascotship due to shame over losing to Williams each year and advises Amherst fans to “get a real mascot.” “Name yourselves the Redmen or something,” says Amherst. “I always sort of liked the little buggers anyway. And Lou Carnesecca is such a cutie [a reference to St. John’s University’s mascot, the Redmen, who were actually nicknamed in reference to their red school colors and uniforms].”
Another April Fool’s Day Lord Jeff resignation took place in 1994 due to a concern that the college was heading in a direction that disregarded tradition. 21 years later, we’re still complaining about that problem.
The Debate around the Mascot
Aside from the previously mentioned instances of disdain for the Lord Jeff mascot, there were some particularly lengthy debates around the mascot. From 1991-1993, there were many op-eds and letters to The Amherst Student which advocated for and against the changing of the mascot. The debate was in part caused by the resurgence in talks concerning Lord Jeffery Amherst and his history, as well as by the debate in 1991 that emerged surrounding the Atlanta Braves and their “Tomahawk Chop” cheer, which opened up a national conversation about Native American mascots.
Another series of debates occurred between 2000-2001. Some called for a change to the College’s name, which President Tom Gerey said was very unlikely. Others called for at least a change to the mascot, especially due to its passivity and its gender-specificity. The ASG (the student government organization the preceded the AAS) suggested the Raptors as a substitute (due to the large presence of predatory birds on campus). There was, in fact, a formal poll of Amherst students about changing the mascot, and 55% were in favor of changing it. This is the only poll I found to date about the mascot, although there seems to have been long-standing support for changing the mascot from the faculty.
The debate flared up most recently in 2012, when The Indicator (Volume XXXIII, Issue 2) published a cartoon in response to a campus housing crisis that showed tipis and a caption that read “Lord Jeff approved.” See for a full explanation of that event, and the letter written by two UMass students in response to the cartoon. You can also view this op-ed in AC Voice by Yasmina Martin in response to the tipi cartoon and response from UMass studnts which calls for a new mascot:
This was followed up by an open forum about the mascot, organized by Risalat Khan ’13. It was for this forum that Head of Archives Michael Kelly created and gave a presentation on the history of the Lord Jeff, which you can view here:
Outside opinions
Our mascot has been the subject for some ridicule, both for its offensiveness and absolute uselessness. See the following articles:;
The Arguments For and Against the Lord Jeff
After combing through many of the published op-eds and letters to the editor about the mascot, I have summarized the majority of arguments below (with the hope that future discussion can address these arguments fully).
-Are we willing to cheer for a man who conspired to massacre thousands of Native Americans with blankets contaminated with small pox?
-Lord Jeffery Amherst’s bigotry, which remains the most significant part of this legacy, is diametrically opposed to the egalitarianism for which Amherst College purportedly strives.
-This is not a matter of semantics but a purposeful rebuking of an ideology that Amherst must shun.
-This is not political correctness but heightened introspection and appropriate moral soul-searching.
-Native Americans finding a voice in American culture and other Amherst students recognizing it and responding to it by questioning the appropriateness of the Lord Jeff mascot is not historical revisionism. To downplay those who support the changing of the mascot as a sort of bandwagon movement is an insult to those of Native American descent and to those who are deeply concerned with the mascot. Furthermore, it is inappropriate to allege that this is only a campus-wide discussion because some people identify it as a problem because they are bored due to a lack of good campus life and not having the time commitments of a varsity athlete. Every problem, be it the curriculum or whatever, has its place at Amherst. And we, as Amherst students, are called to analyze a situation, use our abilities to argue a point, and communicate an idea that has credence. Engaging in intellectual dialogue over a surfeit of issues is one of the points of our college experience. Which is not to reduce it to simply an object of debate, but to defend the type of discussion that those who wish to challenge the mascot wish to take place.
-No one is saying we cannot find redeemable qualities in Lord Jeffery Amherst, but we need to consider some things he has done (like suggesting to wipe away an entire people from the earth).
-Some have defended Jeff using a post-mortem argument, believing that the changing of the mascot is a way of personally punishing Lord Jeffery Amherst for alleged crimes after his death. But this mascot problem is not related to the use of his persona for our sports teams, but to symbols and the history behind those symbols that we want the College to reflect.
-Some have brought up the argument that some of our greatest heroes, such as JFK and LK, had flaws themselves. Why do we have MLK Day when there was knowledge of his extramarital affairs (knowledge which was brought up through extensive FBI probes to discredit him as a black leader)? Yet it is rather difficult to compare the finality of death and genocide with extramarital affairs. Even so, you know what does not have any flaws that a human and historical figure may have? A non-human. A dog, a cow, a panther, or a moose.
-Mascots are laden with the terminology of conflict and battle, but we cannot continue to honor a man who committed such offenses. Even if not to look at him under the glaring surgical light of the twentieth century, the massacre of thousands of innocents was still as reprehensible then as it is now. To use an argument of moral relativism and [if !supportAnnotations][1][endif] say it was accepted as a fact of what was then simply denies for the second time the humanity of the Native Americans who perished.
-Other schools have changed their mascot (Eastern Michigan from the Huron to the Eagle, Dartmouth from Indians to Big Green) in order to correct an offensive situation.
-What exactly is a Lady Jeff? The Lord Jeff’s continued use is a callous response to the presence of women on this campus. To make the impotent translation of the Lord Jeffs to the Lady Jeffs is an insult to the place of women’s athletics on this campus.
-Yes, we may be able to accept alumni and those associated with the College who have had flaws, but to make our mascot a caricature of such an individual demands a lot of forgiving that many students (myself included) are not willing to make. To say that we are represented on the field by this person is incredulous and wholly wrong. Are sports teams even proud of this mascot? The Lord Jeff (either in name or caricature) does not seem to appear on no uniforms except for the football and men’s lacrosse team, and is mostly just used as shorthand in our student publications to reference Amherst athletes. In fact, up until the 1980s, it appears that The Student used the following nicknames for specific teams (rather than referring to all of them as Jeffs), with the only exception being the football team:
Gridders - Jeffs, Football
Field Hockey - Stickers
Women’s Tennis - Netwomen
Cross Country - Harriers
Women’s Soccer - Lady Booters
Men’s Soccer - Booters
Rugby - Ruggers
Hockey - Pucksters/Skatesmen/Icemen
Wrestling - Grapplers
Squash - Racquetmen
Basketball - Hoopsters/Cagers/Hoopsterettes
Track - Tracksters
Lacrosse - Laxmen/Laxwomen
(Volleyball did not have a team until 1980)
And the fact that the Lord Jeff was never officially declared the mascot of our school hints at a historic discomfort with being associated with this man. In many ways, the Lord Jeff and Minuteman of UMass represent the same ideal of a mascot: some old, New England figure of great Massachusetts lore. Yet, when we look at the two schools, one has its mascot everywhere (UMass) and the other hardly even hints at the mascot (Amherst). If the Lord Jeff truly was a great mascot, where is the pride, the celebration? It is hardly anywhere, because no one can deny that the mascot frankly is terrible both in what it represents and just as a mascot. All we have are some college-cute fight songs which no one even bothers to learn the words to anymore unless they’re in a singing group.
-It should also not mean the rejection of our alumni. Although some will look at the change as another of the many deteriorations of the College, we have survived alumni anxiety over coeducation and the removal of fraternities, and we shall survive again. If alumni choose to withhold annual gifts to the College on account of such a symbolic gesture of tolerance and understanding, then perhaps forcing them to re-evaluate their priorities is worth the expense.
-This is a naive attempt at historical revisionism for the sake of contemporary morality. Yes, it is truly sad to find out the moral outrages committed by some of the most important men in history, or even by our immediate family, for that matter. Part of growing up is the shedding of that gloss of perfection that we sometimes place on the world and the things that we treasure.
-We may be sure Lord Jeffrey Amherst did some heinous acts during his life, but one might argue that we do not celebrate the life of Lord Jeffrey Amherst when we respond to our mascot at football games. Lord Jeffrey Amherst is totally irrelevant to our college community and its teams. This here is quite a simple concept. Amherst College throughout its history has constructed an identity for our mascot, the Lord Jeff, which frees our mascot from the man who was the idea behind the mascot. As we progress as a school, so does the image of our mascot. We are not modeling ourselves on Lord Jeffrey Amherst, per se, but we are modeling ourselves on the construction of a mascot which adapts with the College and is called the Lord Jeff. This here is quite a simple concept. Amherst College throughout its history has constructed an identity for our mascot, the Lord Jeff, which frees our mascot from the man who was the idea behind the mascot.
-The Lord Jeff ought to be as fluid as a river—a river has many molecules in it, but most of the molecules that comprise it all share the property of having two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. By the same token, the Lord Jeff becomes whatever the school makes it, yet it does not have a firm identity that we as a college now, and will always, cherish.
-The ongoing debate about athletic team symbols is asinine and detrimental. Lord Jeff breeds oppression? If we are still being intellectually influenced by a guy that dresses as an 18th century British soldier, then our problems go way beyond political correctness. After all, the achievements made by female and minority students at this college disprove any argument that the legacy of Lord Jeff is racist or sexist (due to his male sex).
-There is an argument to be made even against having animal mascots, since they are often depicted fighting each other or one school may degrade another team’s mascot by showing a stuffed animal or effigy burned or beaten. So there is always an argument against a mascot to be made, so let’s just be happy with the one we have.
-This is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a hot topic rather than a reasoned assessment of the Jeff’s visibility as a mascot. Amherst life must get boring for non-athletes who have all the free time that athletes give up to go to battle on the field, court, ice, and water. These people cannot seem to find enough causes to fight for and against. Many of those on the pro-Moose side are non-athletes who not only have the time to debate something as beaten dead as the mascot, they need to fill their time with something, and hot-button issues like this are perfectly suited for satisfying self-righteous egos.
-The people who made Lord Amherst the mascot and droves of fans who have cheered teams on with his name surely were aware of what he stated in his letters. Surely, those people would have changed the school’s mascot if they found any of Amherst’s behavior atrocious. And yet they didn’t because they saw Jeffrey Amherst as a good man, a man worth emulating. To change after one-hundred and ninety years years of satisfying tradition would be dishonorable, both to Amherst himself and the proud students that have called Amherst their own.
-However difficult it may be to reconfigure Lord Jeffrey Amherst the historical figure, though, a Lord/Lady Jeff is open to reinterpretation as a mascot. There have been not one but two Lady Jeffs; a man or woman of any culture or creed could be the Lord/Lady Jeff; the Lord/Lady Jeff could participate in a protest against the use of Native American stereotypes as mascots. The Jeff as a mascot is what we put into it and take form it now, not what Lord Jeffrey Amherst may have been over 200 years ago.
-Lord Jeffrey Amherst is considered a buffoon rather than a role model and a harmless fop at that since his plans were never implemented. The song “Lord Jeffrey Amherst” was written with that in mind, the mascot was created with that in mind and the idea, then and now, was to poke fun at him and ourselves while rallying around our athletic teams. The Lord/Lady Jeff is a caricatured mascot, not an exemplar of behavior or ideology for students. The Amherst community does not have halftime shows during football games denigrating Native American culture or celebrating British culture. We do not have smallpox blankets in lieu of Terrible Towels. We do not endorse, and never have endorsed, the slaughter of Native Americans or members of any other social/ethnic/political group. [if !supportAnnotations][2][endif] We do not call ourselves the “Fighting British.” We don’t even encourage people to run around in tri-cornered hats and red coattails. We do encourage people to support our athletic teams and our College, and a distinctive and central mascot helps to do that.
-It appears that Lord Jeffrey Amherst was a man that students identified well with, especially in the athletic context. He fought hard and always to win, possessing unequalled leadership skills.
-People are never perfect. Presidents Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, Babe Ruth frequented brothels and President Kennedy cheated on Jackie. And yet society holds them near and dear to its heart for their contributions toward building our great nation. The point is, we should choose not to judge theses fine figures on contemporary moral grounds and exclusively by their flaws. We should condemn their errors but not condemn the men that made them.
-Mascots themselves are problematic, yet are kept as symbols of their teams. The Vikings pillaged towns and raped women without remorse. Yet the Twin Cities have chosen that name for their beloved football team. As far as one can see, the Vikings did little good at all, save a few nautical advances.
-To concentrate on the basic humanity of the Native Americans who perished ignores the basic humanity of the British and French who also perished at the hands of the Native Americans.
-If Jeffrey Amherst’s history is so reprehensible as to require his removal as our mascot, why then should the College continue to bear his name?  The answer, probably, is convenience. Tossing aside out mascot is easy; changing the name of the college would require hundreds of costly changes and cost thousands at the loss of brand name recognition. The argument that Amherst is named for the town, not the man, enable opponents of Jeffrey Amherst to make a grand, symbolic gesture without messy consequences.
-Are not the other college mascots who have not been altered to accommodate women more insulting? Let’s face it: Trinity’s “Lady Bantams” makes no sense. And how about the “Lady Trojans” at the University of Southern California? Though Lady Jeffs may be imperfect, it is anything but “callous” in its attempt to provide a similar identity, well-intentioned and a tad less offensive than the Sabrinas.
-What would the new mascot be? Generic names, like Lions, Tigers and Bears, are in use, so we can eliminate those and try to come up with a unique Amherst-y nickname. How about the Purple Bulls a contrast to our arch-rivals? Sexist, one could suppose. Amherst teams could be the Frosts, after the poet, but that would simply shift the naming of one straight white male to another, still offending women and minorities. It also could be confused with Jack Frost, which would discriminate against non-winter sports. We could be the Websters, but the implications of naming Amherst teams after the man who created a preeminent English dictionary would certainly offend bilingual students and students not majoring in English. We could try the Houstons or the Drews after some of Amherst’s more prominent black alumni, but those names alone don’t have the pizzazz that Lord/Lady Jeffs do. The Dickinsons? Emily would likely not approve, especially if we shortened the nickname. Maybe we should just call ourselves the Purple, though that would offend the color-blind—sorry, spectrumally impaired—among us. Or maybe Amherst’s mascot should be a blank sheet of paper to reflect simply whatever values and connotations we feel like inscribing upon it at any given time. (That would offend only the trees).
-No other school has the Lord Jeff as their mascot. This makes our College unique in its mascot, and unlike any other school in the country. Which we are, because we’re the best!  #Amherstexceptionalism
The effects on alumni at other colleges that changed their mascot
Amherst College is unique in the history of mascot changes related to Native Americans because our mascot is not an indigenous mascot itself. Nonetheless, because of Lord Jeffrey Amherst’s genocidal legacy, he has been roped into the debate. Colleges that dropped their mascots for being offensive towards Native Americans include Dartmouth College, Syracuse University, Stanford University, Southern Nazarene College (the last institution to drop the Redskin mascot; well, at least at the college level). See for quick explanations of these schools’ mascot changes (and look, we got an honorable mention for still not having changed ours). I highly recommend Sudie Hofmann’s article on the elimination of Native American mascots for a history on the mascot changes at St. Cloud State University (
One of the biggest concerns is that alumni donations will go down if we change the mascot. While even bringing this up as an argument against changing of the mascot, given the reasons why it should be changed, is immeasurably offensive, it is an empirical question that can investigated. A study by McEwan and Belfield entitled “Native American Mascots and Alumni Giving” in The Native American Mascot Controversy: A Handbook found that for the 42 schools that had a Native American nickname, symbol, or athletic mascot and changed it,
Dropping a Native American nickname leads to declines in the percentage of alumni who donate, particularly among bachelor’s institutions. However, there is little effect on total donations, and it appears that the site of the average donation—among alumni who donate—may rise slightly. Although difficult to corroborate without micro data, a plausible explanation is that alumni who stop giving are among the smallest donors to begin with—perhaps drawn from younger cohorts [more recent graduates]…Overall, the results suggest that revenue impacts will be minimal, and that schools might fruitfully center their debates on the educational impact of Native American nicknames [as opposed to the revenue impact].” (128).
While it is, of course, impossible to predict the impact on revenue at Amherst College (especially considering that Amherst is an outlier in its reliance on alumni donations and high alumni participation rates), this research suggests that it is nothing to be concerned with in the long-run.
The Current Situation
Our college is ready to change the mascot, even at administrative and institutional level. Athletics needs to be as involved in this discussion as possible, since athletes carry the identity of the mascot more so than any other student group. What seems to be the case on campus is that nobody is really passionate about the Lord Jeff, but people are tied to the heritage of the school and to tradition, which is certainly something to get defensive about. But it is also clear that the mascot, for the last thirty (!) years has been not so much a positive rallying force but a source of tension between students and administrators. It doesn’t need to be a moose: it just needs to not be Lord Jeff.
Here, I will quote someone twenty-five years ahead me who had come to the same conclusion as I regarding our college’s unofficial mascot:
"Lord Jeffery Amherst played an integral role in the European campaign to annihilate the [Native Americans] to make room for white settlement…We should reassess whether he deserves to be part of our college…Amherst College’s mascot, the Lord Jeff, is not slighting a people [like having a Native American tribe as a mascot would], but rather exalting an undeserving, dishonest man who broke treaties with and annihilated Indian tribes just to further his political standing.” (Amherst Student, Letter to editor, Dec 5, 1990)
The bottom line is that this is not political correctness if it is showing fundamental respect for others and actively choosing to sever a toxic relationship to a disgraced man. Yes, this is a very slippery slope argument: if the Lord Jeff, then why not the college name itself? While it is named for the town, that town is named for the same man. And what about the problematic history of our country, itself? To this, I say that it is totally one thing to be named for a town is named for the man (keeping in mind that the town was named for Amherst nearly four years before his clear intentions to eliminate Native Americans entirely), and another thing to have a caricature of that person as a symbolic representation of our College.
We need to have at least minimum standards for what our mascot is. Not having a desire to have killed students who now attend our College should be one of them. Whatever it is, I implore you, please do not let it continue to be the Lord Jeff.
Photo Credit: Joshua Reynolds [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Editor’s Note: For a previous contribution to Amherst Soul from 2014 regarding the mascot debate, please read “YOU Are A Lord Jeff”. That article was a response to the Amherst Student article, “We Are The Lord Jeffs”. 

Why are you here?

Photo Credit: Anna Donat ‘16 
The past few days have been some of the most moving and emotionally trying days of our college careers. Inspired by the way students of so many different backgrounds came together to stand up to injustice, with many refusing to leave the library even if it meant sleeping on a hard, cold floor, Madison Burke and I decided to ask attendees a simple question: “Why are you here?" 
"It took coming to college to realize that I was a RACIST. Sure, I could profess to believe in people’s basic equality. But when I saw a black man – a fellow student – walking toward me at night from Frost, my heart raced & I stepped out of the way. FEAR.”
“Undocumented/DACA Amherst College students come out! We need your solidarity." 
"Anti Black sentiment in the Latinx community is alive and well – and shouldn’t be. It is alive in my household. Although my sisters and I call my mom out and tell her that she’s racist, we often fail to acknowledge our own racist beliefs. It is difficult to unlearn racism. People of color need to remember that not only white people have anti black sentiment, beliefs, and, behavior.”
“I have had countless uncomfortable conversations from explaining my skin color to my sexuality. Forcing me in a corner to defend my identities. We have to make anti-Blackness visible! Combat it with compassion!”
“It takes a great amount of strength to hold a friend back when he is drunk. It takes great strength to keep holding him back after he calls your companion a nigger and tries to fight him. It takes the greatest strength to still call him friend.”
“A girl in my class once stated that my undocumented friends didn’t deserve to be here, but Amherst College chose them for a reason.”
“This experience has been sad, beautiful, empowering & validating. Thank you for this!”
“I’m here because: ‘You don’t look Latina’ takes away from my identity.”
“I came to Amherst to learn with and about those different from me, and ultimately had to seek refuge in those like me …" 
"I came for my brother…who doesn’t know better and is therefore more at risk than I.”
“Back home, I lived in a mostly all–minority neighborhood. As such, I never really knew what racism was or how it felt. Being here at Amherst and listening to other people’s stories, I’ve come to learn that racism is still around and still a problem, and I need to do my part to try to stop it.”
“My name, or my pronunciation of my name, should not be reason to ask me where I’m from. I’m from Cali, man. And proud of it. Quick lesson on how I pronounce it: "Irma” (the Spanish way), you can also try “EAR-ma.” (Like earmuffs). PLEASE Don’t say “Erma." 
"There are too many people I care about who have been hurt by injustices on campus.”
“As an international student from Pakistan, I’m here to listen to the stories of all minority members who have ever felt marginalized or isolated. We should have better things in common than stuff like the majority holding negative stereotypes about our background. As a college, we can do better.”
“Because I care.” 

The Amherst Uprising – A Movement of Pain and Compassion

Anonymous Member of the Amherst Class of 2016 
In sharing my experience with the Amherst Uprising I hope to shed some light on the true essence of this movement. This account is based on my perception of events, and I fully acknowledge that other people might feel very differently. The events of the past few days have truly moved me, and I am grateful for everybody who shared these moments with me. But I also realize that the movement has made people felt left-out, and I am aware that much work needs to be done for true inclusivity.
I am sure you have googled the Amherst Uprising, and probably you read some of the things the media has been claiming. You likely have also seen the fake-twitter account that is trying to turn this peaceful conversation into violent action.
According to some of these reports, we are solely a movement of anger and of exclusion. Even worse, reports are claiming that we are trying to limit free speech.
Having spent the past four days with this movement in the library, I can attest that nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, the Amherst Uprising is a movement of pain but also compassion. We have been a movement seeking conversation; but we also understand that this conversation about race and discrimination will be difficult. We are by no means trying to silence free speech, which would inherently contradict our own methods and goals. All we are trying to achieve is to raise awareness that students of color are still experiencing discrimination – at Missouri, at Yale, but also at Amherst College and elsewhere – and that measures need to be taken to change that.
During the first hour of the sit-in on Thursday, November 12th, many of our classmates of color shared their stories of what life at Amherst College has been like for them. Many of these students were my friends, but some students I had never met. Their stories hurt either way. To have our classmates tell us that they felt unsafe, that they felt like they did not belong and like they did not matter, hurt. It really hurt. Nobody should ever have to feel the way they did. But it happens regardless.
Quite frankly, until Thursday I had been oblivious to their true experiences of Amherst College. As a white international student, I certainly occupy a position of high privilege. While I very strongly empathize with the experience of students of color at this school, I know that my personal experience is fundamentally different. Nobody has ever closed a door in my face because of my skin color. I don’t have to think twice about entering specific buildings and spaces on this campus. And most importantly, I am surrounded by faculty, staff and students that I feel comfortable sharing anything with. So why would I, a student who has not experienced significant disadvantages and discrimination in this system, decide to put my own life on hold for the cause of the Amherst Uprising?
The answer is simple: Because for a brief period of time, some of the pain of the students and faculty of color became my pain.
When the Amherst Uprising entered the Frost Library, it created a space of empathy. Nobody that came with me has been able to turn away from this cause since then. By listening and trying to learn about the harsh reality of people of color at Amherst College, we all felt like our hearts were breaking. In the past four days, I have witnessed my professors break down in tears in front of all of us. I have seen my friends gather the courage to speak about things they wished they never had experienced. And I have even cried because of the stories of students that were strangers to me until that very moment.
As a matter of respect, I will not use this space to reiterate these narratives. I do, however, encourage anybody who was unable to be a part of this moment to reach out and seek these kinds of difficult conversations with each other.
Regardless of their individual experiences, many students shared a common message when speaking about their time at Amherst College. ‘I am exhausted. I am tired. I am really tired of having to constantly defend myself.’ These were some of the phrases repeated over and over again.
These students are not trying to silence anybody’s free speech. Rather, they are using their right to free speech in order to make us see all the things that need to be changed on this campus. For probably the first time, their voice is being truly heard on our campus.
Intentionally harmful and delegitimizing commentary, threats of personal violence and the silencing of speech through the removal of posters are just proving the truth of the claim put forth by Amherst Uprising: people of color are not treated equally, their voices continue to be silenced on our campus and elsewhere.
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