by Delphine Burns
Editor in Chief
Freedom of speech and productive discursive dialogue are just two of the many guises The Claremont Independent, “an independent journal of campus affairs and political thought serving the colleges of the Claremont Consortium,” hides behind when intentionally antagonizing and mobilizing jaded racists across the nation. Recently, Pitzer junior and Claremont Independent staff writer Elliot Dordick wrote an article for the journal entitled Pitzer College RA: White People Can’t Wear Hoop Earrings, which to be fair he has every right to do. Although I have many of questions for Mr. Dordick, I’ll start with this. Out of sheer curiosity, if you’re such an avid supporter of free speech, why do you care what these students wrote on the “colloquially named free wall?” Of course you have a right to challenge the discourse occurring on the free wall and open a dialogue. After all, as you wrote, “Pitzer’s website states that on the free wall ‘you’ll find artistic representation of local and global issues that usually spark educational discussion across campus.'” But why does this issue mean so much to you? Is it because you are genuinely concerned about white women being deprived of hoop earrings, or is it because when you sensationalize race issues on our campus, you earn the attention and approval of racist strangers nationwide? Do you genuinely believe you are initiating productive discourse, or is this a desperate cry to earn the attention of Fox News once again?
I ask you this because we are both “journalists” and in high school, my fiery passion for journalism was first ignited with a discussion around “Yellow Journalism” and ethics. If you’re not familiar with it, Yellow Journalism is a genre of reporting that focuses on utilizing eye-catching headlines to catch readers’ attention and subsequently sell more newspapers (or contemporarily, obtain more online readership.) Yellow Journalism is based not on well-researched facts or methodical interviews, but instead is a marketing technique. This type of reporting flourished in the early 20th century but eventually lost its momentum due to debates about ethics and slander. In the journalism community, this sensationalized reporting is now seen as unprofessional and distasteful. My point is you’re not the first one to note that exaggerating incidents and taking quotations out of context expands readership. You have Pulitzer and Hearst to thank for that.
Giving you the benefit of the doubt, maybe you are genuinely concerned about white women having to discard their hoops. If this is the case, I would strongly encourage you to see this statement on the free wall for what it is rather than sensationalizing it. If you took the time to understand the message and read between the lines, (rather than snapping a photo, copying and pasting some quotations from your Pitzer inbox and calling it an article) maybe you’d arrive at the core of the students’ argument, which is not to appropriate Latinx culture. Even the quotations you used from these students in your article outlined a deeper argument than your headline suggests. Both students you quoted in your article explain that the mural was not about hoop earrings themselves but rather about a greater double standard existing in modern fashion. This double standard is that when black and brown women wear certain articles of clothing and makeup (hoop earrings are just one example) they are often perceived as unprofessional and not taken seriously, while white women may wear the same articles of clothing and be perceived as “edgy” or “trendy.” When these students wrote their message on the free wall, they were calling the community to critically analyze this double standard, not for you to sensationalize and dilute their message to a simple sentence about hoop earrings. The fact is that this was never about hoop earrings, and your failure to see that makes it difficult for the free discourse The Claremont Independent seems to desperately desire to occur.
When you are incapable of viewing an argument in a nuanced way and take this statement for face value, you are not critically thinking. You are reducing the message to a sensationalist headline so bored conservatives with no affiliation with our schools can critique and dismiss it. I challenge you, before you denounce these students’ message, to critically think about what they are actually evaluating. Ask yourself, is this discourse around circular pieces of metal or is it a critique of larger institutional racism? I challenge you to read the quotations from your article again and dig a little deeper. Publish an article where you subtract the sensationalism and add some depth and critical thought.