Your "Alternative Truths" Are a Form of Violence

On October 2nd, Muhlenberg's Center for Ethics held a talk by Janaya Khan, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada. In response, an anonymous group of students that are calling themselves “The Alternative Center for Ethics,” posted a flyer around Muhlenberg’s campus stating their ‘Alternative’ Troubling Truth. This is a play off of the Center for Ethics theme, “Troubling Truths.” They claim that this is “#1” of this group’s Troubling Truths, indicating that there will be more of these fliers to come. Here is a copy of said flyer:

Now, just let this all sink in for a moment. I will get to the specific points that these students have compiled, but, before I even do that, we need to talk about the implications of a document like this. These students have essentially tried to justify the murder of Black Americans at the hands of police in the United States. They have decided to play into the disgusting conception that Black Americans are more prone to commit crimes and that, because of this, it is somehow logical that they would be murdered by the police at a higher rate. In actuality, there is no logical reason police should be murdering people who are unarmed, under any circumstances. This flyer fails to realize that the reason the police murder people of color, is because they have preconceived notions that create a violent reading of these marked bodies. Flyers like these create these notions.This is racism and this is a form of violence. Any action which claims that certain bodies should be dying at a higher rate for any reason is violent. It perpetuates the systematic forms of racism which allow for Black deaths to be normalized in our society in the United States. This is exactly what Janaya Khan was speaking out against. The creation and distribution of this flyer only creates an unsafe environment for the POC at Muhlenberg and in this country.

This group of students are hiding their identities in order to avoid any backlash that might have come with their actions. Sadly, this safety is a privilege that is not enjoyed by POC on this campus and out in the world. This act was just as cowardly as it was violent. Anonymity also destroys any possibility for a conversation. One student, Sara Kass, puts it well in a Facebook post about the matter, “Maybe if you heard Janaya Khan’s words and their powerful call for community building you might [have] thought twice about putting these up in the dead of night…”

Let’s discuss these specific “alternative truths:”

  1. These students have written that police officers claim that they are less likely to pull a weapon on a POC. A claim is not a fact. Police officers can claim that they are less likely to do something, but that doesn’t make it true. Unarmed Black Americans are 3.49 times more likely to be shot by the police than an unarmed white person. (Based on a study done at University of California, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0141854)

  2. These students say that Black Americans are murdered at a higher rate because they are disproportionately responsible for violent crime. The same study as the one above found that there was no correlation between racial-bias based police shootings and crime rate. (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0141854) Another analysis done in 2015 of lethal force used by police found “no correlation between the level of violent crime in the area and that area’s police killing rates.” (http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/)

  3. These students claimed that Black Americans were responsible for more police deaths. A study found that police who fire their weapons are less likely to be facing imminent threat from Black Americans that they exert deadly force on than white people who they use the same force on. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/)

  4. Another quote from the same study to consider, “The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black...Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/ar...)

These are real facts, supported by real academic data. They are not “alternative,” they are just true and they are troubling.

I will end this article with a challenge and appeal to those who created this flyer. Come out of the shadows. If you feel proud enough to distribute this, then you have no reason to hide yourselves in public. I also challenge you to do some introspection and question why you didn’t reveal your identities in the first place. If you publish 2 flyers, 10 flyers, or 100 flyers...we will be here to respond. That is a promise.