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BLM: Total BS?

Let’s give credit where it’s due: the Black Lives Matter protesters’ finely crafted message about the fears that they feel for their own physical safety is a powerful, conversation-stopping position. Who can argue against the proposition that words or behavior that make students feel unsafe in their person are unacceptable. No less than the Supreme Court in its 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio (395 U.S. 444) decision asserted that the “advocacy of the use of force” is not protected by the First Amendement when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action.”

At two town meetings on May 23 students harangued Phil Hanlon, Carolyn Dever, other senior administrators, and, no less, even your humble servant, for creating a climate at the College with actions and written words that caused students of color to regularly receive “death threats and rape threats.” Kevin Bui ‘17 was particularly agitated in making this assertion.

The question, however, remains: is such an accusation true?

Let’s step back for a moment to review the atmosphere on Dartmouth’s campus. On January 24, 2013, Jennifer McGrew ‘13 took to the pages of The D to lambaste the College and note the “racism and sexism” that she found everywhere in it. In such an article one can expect that she made a serious effort to record all the incidents of prejudice that she had encountered on campus. Jennifer described her undergraduate experience as a “four-year struggle of torment,” replete with “harassment” and “mental abuse from fellow students” who treated her “like a second-class citizen.” And the exact nature of her charges?

“another incident of racist vandalism” [a nasty word or two on a whiteboard]

“my peers outside of the classroom ignore me”

“moving aside as my white counterparts walk past me on the sidewalk”

“there is not one building on campus named after a black alumnus” [or alumna?]

Note the absence of threats of any kind. In fact, Jennifer felt sufficiently safe on campus to choose to remain in Hanover from September 2013-June 2014 in the College’s employ as an Outreach Coordinator in the College’s Career Services office. At no time, as far as I can discern, did she claim to have been threatened with violence.

Now come the BLM students to maintain that the threat of violence lies behind every bush in Hanover. The first charges of this type came after members of their predecessor group, RealTalk Dartmouth, broke into and disrupted a Dartmouth Dimensions event. Shortly thereafter, they reproduced a series of violent messages from the Bored@Baker anonymous chat site where unidentified persons issued threats of violence against them. These words so alarmed the Folt administration that classes were cancelled for a day on April 24, 2013 in order that the Dartmouth community reflect on the “series of threatening and abusive on-line posts used to target particular students.”

The authors of the posts in question? Who knows? Well, someone does know. The creator of the Bored@Baker site, who goes by the nom de guerre Jae Daemon, wrote the following post in February 2014:

B@B Devblog1a.jpg

Let’s reproduce the highlighted section:

I have seen cases where some users will post their own name or harass themselves and then turn around and complain about their name being posted. I have also seen student organizations post the same kind of content that they themselves protest.

Flash forward now to the BLM crowd. What are we to make of the supposed fact that many students have been the recipients of “death threats and rape threats”? If true, we can only feel sympathy. That there are people out there who would take the time to pen hateful messages is disturbing — believe me, I know. But beyond hateful messages, threats of personal violence stand at a higher level. One would think that students would have brought such messages, if they had really occurred, to the attention of Dartmouth’s Safety & Security service or to the Town of Hanover Police. Nope. I checked:

Kinne Threats letter.jpg

Threats HPo.jpg

Oh, my. But then, if the threats were made of whole cloth, it’s best that the BLMers did not go further than to vaguely assert that they had occurred. Had they done more, a stern fate awaits them:

A [New Jersey] Superior Court judge Friday sentenced a Kean University graduate to 90 days in jail and five years probation for posting Twitter messages threatening to kill black students on the campus.

However, Judge Robert Mega expressed his disagreement with the plea-agreement and sentence for the defendant, Kayla McKelvey, an African American woman, who admitted writing the messages because she wanted to bring attention to racism on campus.

In her statement to the judge, McKelvey apologized for sending the messages, which said black students would be shot. She admitted the tweets were wrong but said her intent to raise awareness about racial issues was correct.

McKelvey, 25, and a former president of the university’s Pan African Student Union, said she “made a poor error in judgement to shine a light on an issue that is important to me. My intent was to expose racism on campus,” McKelvey said…

McKelvey’s lawyer, Thomas Ashley, had asked Mega to place his client on probation, with no jail time, saying McKelvey had been an honor student, a homecoming queen, a student leader on the campus prior to graduation in the spring of 2015, and had a history of community service.

Ashley said McKelvey once had a bright future but now has suffered, losing her job as a certified personal trainer, and losing nearly all her friends…

Mega, who also ordered that McKelvey serve five years probation after completing the jail sentence, called the threats “heinous,” and repeatedly referred to McKelvey’s claim that she did the wrong thing but for a good reason.

“They (the threats) created a sense of terror among the university society,” Mega said.

Are the BLM protesters lying about the threats that they have received? I can’t nail down that assertion, but at this point, I’d say the burden of proof is squarely on them to show that the threats they say they have received are, in fact, real.

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