If you Google Kenyon College right now, you’ll see a few stories trending: “Kenyon College Cancels Play About Immigration; Starts ‘Whiteness Group’” from the Weekly Standard; “Kenyon College professor nixes play on illegal immigration as ‘whiteness group’ takes shape on campus” from Fox News; and “‘Whiteness Group’ at liberal arts college bars whites from asking blacks questions” from Breitbart.
Despite the sensationalist claims in these headlines, the only thing that they’ve seemed to prove is that representation of events is not always so clear cut. Fox News and Breitbart have taken content published in the Collegian and the Kenyon Thrill about Playwright-in-Residence Wendy MacLeod’s ’81 canceled play The Good Samaritan and the creation of a Whiteness Group on campus and linked those events to push a partisan, ‘anti-academic’ narrative.
These outlets are conflating The Good Samaritan’s cancellation and the formation of the Whiteness Group, unrelated but very important events, and it implies that our community is complicit in a form of censorship. Though this implication is unfounded and inaccurate, it still reflects upon Kenyon as an institution.
It is easy to let this attention from right-wing national outlets to change our perception of this community, but the easy thing is not always the right thing. In fact, the right thing is usually not easy at all.
Over the last few days, our campus has been engaged in a difficult and important dialogue about the representation of minority individuals in art. But the conversation has shifted to another question altogether in the hands of these conservative publications: whether a so-called ‘PC culture’ impacts freedom of speech or promotes an ‘anti-white’ agenda.
Due to the attention to these events by those outside our immediate community, we need to find our own voice amidst broader public outcry.
Now is the time to come together as a community to reclaim the narrative and to reaffirm the original purpose of these events: to highlight and address instances of racial insensitivity and cultivating cross-cultural awareness. This won’t be easy, but it is still right.
The staff edtiorial was written this week by the executive editors of the Collegian, editor-in-chief Bailey Blaker ’18 and managing editor Lauren Eller ’18. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.