Dear Chancellor Blank: Do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

Careful, chancellor — your disregard for black, brown, indigenous students is showing

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

I don’t know if you’ll read this, but you need to. I don’t know when you’ll care enough to reply to us people of color, but it is your promised duty as our chancellor. You are not just the chancellor for white students, but for me too: your Muslim, Palestinian, female student.

Tell me chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

Last week, students at the April 26 Associated Students of Madison meeting stood in support of amendments added to the meaningless one-page divestment resolution, which made sure not to disrupt the comfort of my oppressors. That failed to call you out by your name.

ASM unanimously approves contentious divestment proposal to mixed reactions from campusAfter five hours of debate and nearly 50 people appearing before open forum, the University of Wisconsin Associated Students of Read…

I watched as allies showed up for one other. My black brothers, Latinx sisters, Palestinian blood, indigenous friends — and oh, by the way, we are standing on their stolen Ho-Chunk land.

Chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

On April 26, the few who opposed us stepped out of the meeting when Israel was mentioned as one of the many countries complicit in human rights violations, claiming they didn’t feel safe. Welcome to my life every day on this campus as a woman of color, consistently outnumbered by white faces. It doesn’t feel good, does it?

On March 29, students condemned the 13-page resolution that called out the administration and defined the atrocities committed against marginalized communities. Chancellor, you never saw the 16-page list of 504 Palestinian children killed within 50 days during conflict with Israel. Should we really keep investing in the bombs that killed these 504 children, and stay silent in the face of systemic oppression propelled by the corporations you choose to invest in?

Proposal asks for UW divestment from corporations participating in human rights abusesAs the Students for Justice in Palestine prepare to bring a resolution to the Associated Students of Madison Wednesday, some Read…

Chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

Students arrived in masses on March 29, because the resolution mentioned Israel. They misconstrued our words as “anti-Semitic,” painting us as racist and hateful.

But Israel is not Judaism and Judaism is not Israel. This is not about the Jewish community on this campus, it’s about Zionism. It is about communities shouting “all lives matter.”

To those students: you were champions of human rights on March 29, claiming “black lives matter,” claiming you want people of color to feel safe on campus. Claiming your opposition was about more than just Israel.

But on April 26, when the new one-page resolution no longer mentioned Israel, where were you? When it was time to stand up against private prisons and the Dakota Access Pipeline, where were the masses? You said it was about human rights, you said you were “Badgers United Against Hate,” but on April 26, why weren’t you united against hate alongside us?

Divestment resolution forces Jewish students bear weight of discrimination, anti-Israel sentimentOn March 29, Associated Students of Madison Reps. Omer Arain, Denzel Bibbs, Beau Burdett and Tyriek Mack proposed a piece of legislation titled Read…

Chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

I’ve read op-eds about how we are anti-Semitic, how Jewish people don’t feel safe on campus, how divestment is a “Ban, Sanction, Divest” campaign. When will our words stop getting twisted to make us appear as oppressors? When will our voices be loud enough for you to hear us begging you to stop investing in our oppression? Corporations don’t bleed, but chancellor, we do.

Chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

You wasted no time releasing a statement within hours of the vote, claiming the process was “undemocratic.”

Do masses of black bodies dying in private prisons seem democratic to you?

Does the fact we sit on desks made by these dying black prisoners seem democratic to you?

Does the U.S.-Mexico border wall seem democratic to you?

Does DAPL, which takes even more land from my indigenous friends, seem democratic to you?

Does the fact that I face a gun every time I re-enter my home country of Palestine seem democratic to you?

Does the fact that we invested in the bullet that killed my cousin in Palestine seem democratic to you?

Chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

“UW-Madison values and welcomes members of all faiths and identities. We have heard clearly from the Jewish community how targeted they feel by the actions of the last month.”

What about how we feel every day on this campus?

You do not value and welcome members of all identities. If you did, you wouldn’t have shut down our voices, screeching from the exhaustion caused by deprivation of basic human rights.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank, you came when we spoke truths about our struggles, but you came to shut us down.

Now tell me chancellor, do you believe in my right to exist as a person of color?

I’ll answer that for you. No, no you don’t.

Zahiah Hammad ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and journalism with a certificate in gender and women’s studies.

Letters to the editor are published on the discretion of the opinion desk and editor. They may not reflect the views of the Herald. Email your own letters to the editor to [email protected]

This article was published May 2, 2017 at 6:00 am and last updated May 2, 2017 at 9:33 pm


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