The integrity of the U.S. Constitution, the very document that emboldens these anonymous defenders of “freedom,” has been secured through the bloodshed of enslaved and lynched Black people. There is no softer way to put it. We fought an entire war so that Black people could access the protections of the constitution. If the Constitution cannot guarantee the right of Black people to move through the world unharassed on the basis of skin color, then it is not worth the paper it was written on.
The suggestion that Black college students who ask not to be confronted with Blackface on Halloween or not to be called “nigger” as they walk through campus are somehow seeking to undercut the power and importance of the Bill of Rights evinces a poor understanding of American History. If the defense of freedom means always defending the right of white people to engage in racial recklessness at the expense of racial minorities, then perhaps we should consider whether freedom is the thing for which we are really fighting.
So these battles on college campuses remind us that white freedom is always prior to Black safety. When administrators use their considerable power on campus as Nicholas and Erika Christakis did at Yale to fight for the right of students to engage in racially offensive costumes, they did so strictly from the vantage point of making the campus hospitable to white students. These conversations about freedom of expression always take white students’ experiences as the zero-point of conversation. University policy and advocacy always begins by seeking to secure conditions that make white students feel most safe.