Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fear & Loathing at Hampshire College

Fireworks light up the sky over Hampshire College Red Barn Friday night for Hampshire Halloween.  And now the fireworks have turned into a firestorm

UPDATE:  (Sunday later afternoon)

Hampshire College has posted yet another "official statement" on their website, only a slight tweaking from the one issued earlier this morning.  Of course anything short of an outright apology and admission of a major mistake isn't going to cut it.  

And this statement does neither.

They also use the "West Side Story" defense beleaguered Amherst school officials invoked after the nationwide firestorm erupted over the only cancellation of the award winning play in it's entire history.  

Officials said the fast brewing controversy had caused too much of an uproar, pitting (minority) students against (white) students, and it was interfering with a safe and healthy environment for education to take place.

The cancellation then had the effect of rolling a grenade into the middle of an ammunition dump. 

UPDATE:  (Sunday early afternoon):

UPDATE (Sunday morning):  Official Hampshire College response (Believe it or not.  Yikes!). "Reasonable conversation"?????

The student organizers of Hampshire Halloween contracted with a number of bands to play Friday night. Some members of our student community questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band, and expressing their concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures. The students tried to be clear that they meant no disrespect to the members of the band in question, but wished to raise larger questions and deeper thought within our own community.

Unfortunately, voices unconnected to our campus and the planning for Hampshire Halloween drowned out a reasonable conversation about how to ensure that the entire student community could have a safe and happy evening. As can happen on social media, posts from off-campus individuals trivialized the concerns of our students and made them feel disrespected.

Late Thursday afternoon, the student organizers met with the concerned students. Following that discussion they chose to cancel the band’s appearance at Hampshire Halloween but to pay the band in full. Hampshire Halloween is student organized, paid for by Hampshire students in their student activity fees, and is designed to be a fun evening for our entire student community.

ORIGINAL Post (Saturday morning):

So just when I thought nothing could match the "only in Amherst" moments brought to you by our local Regional High School -- cancelling a production of 'West Side Story' because it was "racist", but then five years later allowing young girls to publicly perform the R rated 'Vagina Monologues' -- another indigenous "education" institute reminds us why the term Only in Amherst still applies.

Hampshire College, that bastion of, um, liberal progressive something-or-other, suddenly cancelled the group Shokazoba, scheduled to perform at their infamous "Hampshire Halloween" celebration, because they were, for lack of a better term, too white.

Interestingly the (appropriately titled) "Hype" committee felt comfortable engaging in censorship on their official Facebook page.  Yeah, they have their priorities straight (sarcasm)


Anonymous said...

Larry, exactly why isn't this a violation of the Commonwealth's anti-discrimination laws?

Not to mention something that really ought to be reported to the accreditation folks?

For that matter, isn't nondiscrimination a requirement for tax-exempt status? If so, then perhaps Hampshire should loose theirs....

Anonymous said...

My guess is that we're going to hear a lot more about this story.

Hey, do the folks at Hampshire know all about releasing controversial stuff late on a Friday?

Anonymous said...

On the part of some students there was some negative remark about the african-american lead vocalist "passing for white", as well as some anti-semitic stuff about "Jews running the world", as well as complete disregard for any Latino members of the band, all of which could be considered racist in my own view. As well there was some "students only" kind of slant which also fails since two members of the band are Hampshire grads. There were also threats and a WHOLE lot of angry 19yo rich kid BS. We never did figure out WHAT music those students would've wanted instead. In the minds of a few of them anyone caucasian shouldn't be allowed to play ANY music at all since all the styles and instruments were stolen from Africa. It's like they just read some Amiri Baraka books two days ago. As far as I'm concerned, telling someone they can't play the music they love is itself a crime against humanity. These kids will grow up into the real world someday.

Anonymous said...

Dear HC: I agree with your decision 100%. Now, your next step must be to BAN ALL Stevie Ray Vaughn music from campus--freaking white guy thinks he can play Albert King and Jimi Hendrix. Oh yeah--and there are a couple of Beatles covers you can ban as well--freaking George Harrison singing Chuck Berry, and Paul McCartney singing Little Richard--this white stuff has got to stop NOW!

Anonymous said...

Dear HC,

Your decision to stop the band from performing was the right one. I will follow your future decisions closely and look forward to your 2014 decision to close your agriculture program due to crulty to animals, your decision to ban all fossil fuel powered cars AND buses on campus, a decision to require all of your students and staff to wear only organically produced, fair trade clothing, no meat or dairy on campus, no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers on campus and no petroleum products on campus, including the Eric Carle Museum and it's contents of petroleum laden paintings and books. There will also be a mass book burning to protest the paper industry and deforestation.Of course books authored by Hampshire College Professors and alumni will be exempt from the burning. Best regards.
Rufus T. Graves
Amherst Native

Dr. Ed said...

Reminds me of an incident years back. I was trying to organize music for a dance, and first asked the BMCP their price which was 200% of my entire budget, and hence out of the question. So I asked people to loan us CDs and I had someone who would play them and that is what we did.

I later get accused of being racist because I hadn't played "hip hop" music -- at the time I neither knew nor cared what it was -- I had asked absolutely everyone, including the person complaining, and he hadn't want to help, hadn't loaned us any "hip hop" CDs (this was before MP3), but was complaining anyway.

The university would later hire this person, and then pay him not to work and a few other things. That was when I truly realized that there was something known as "racism."

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago, wasn't there some sort of protest that involved actual sexual intercourse (heterosexual) on the sidewalk outside the Hampshire College library?

Tom Porter said...

This is a fascinating and righteously-"Amherst" vignette, and I'd like to know a little more: we have your characterization Larry, plus Shokazoba's assertion, as well as the interpretations of several commenters. Is there anything on the record from Hype Comm or from Hampshire College proper that tells us specifically what the school say about its decision?

Larry Kelley said...

Not yet. It's still the weekend so administrators would have nothing to say until Monday (although they will probably hide under their desks).

And I would imagine my bricks and mortar friends in the mainstream media will also awaken on Monday.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase "I Love Lucy",

Hampshire! Haaampshire!

You got some 'splainin' to do!

Larry Kelley said...

I also want to see their permit for outdoor fireworks.

Anonymous said...

This is going to get worse, when the students who made this decision begin to appear on camera, speaking their special language, stuff that only plays within an academic institution.

Anonymous said...

That's right -- they were shooting them off just about the time that AFD had to tone in the backup because of all the ambulance runs and then the working fire at Louis's.

Aren't you supposed to have a paid detail firefighter standing there watching you shoot those things off?

Oh Mr. Fire Marshall.....

Dr. Ed said...

Larry -- I'm in awe that in 2013 some presumably intelligent kid is actually writing stuff like this. What are they teaching them at Hampshire??? Who does this kid think he is?!?!?!?!?

NB: Obscenities and graphic sexual references (hopefully all of them) removed by Ed.

Chase Berggrun: seriously you can't be anti-white racist. you have to be in a position of power to oppress. read something. "Misandry" and "Reverse-racism" are not real things in real life. I don't really care about the whole controversy over shokazoba but I do care when a******* bandy about post-racial bull**** because it delegitimizes and obfuscates the fact that there are real and f***** up racial and gender-related conflicts and problems in this world. I think that the anger misdirected at shokazoba is sort of petty and argument-baiting, though.
it seems you haven't really learned anything. i have no problems with your band or it's make-up, personally: that's not what's important to me. i think the reason y'all were removed from the line-up has to do with the colorblind rhetoric that you're expressing.
no, what you're doing is denying the legitimate experiences of people of color by denying their identity, dude.
our society puts white skin on a pedestal. some people decided to not have you play their concert, which I actually think was sort of silly, but that's not the point. examining the ways in which race and privilege educate and inform behavior and culture is a worthwhile and progressive activity. saying that we shouldn't care is moot and false, because it washes over the FACT that any person of color is a marginalized person in our white-dominated society, and whites are NOT marginalized.

Anonymous said...

Their black singer is not black enough? Their latino members are not latino enough? Their Jewish members run the world? You do not recognize your brothers and sisters when you see them? This band is clearly (and always has been) a multiracial band.

Anonymous said...

"I also want to see their permit for outdoor fireworks."

Why? It has nothing to do with your story.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't appear that HYPE or Hampshire want to consider the feelings of anyone in the band...including the black and latino members. Or the band's Hampshire grads for that matter. Threatening arrest for Hampshire grads to walk on their own alma mater is as low as it gets. These people are not criminals. This band has always been a multiracial band and have always been about spreading an uplifting message. And charging the African-American lead vocalist for "passing" for white is absolutely disgusting. Charles Mingus had expressed that experience in his autobiography and it only fueled him to work harder at his art. This band will continue to get their gigs for years to come but we'll see how Hampshire decides to handle their (once) fun annual Halloween tradition.

Larry Kelley said...

And while they're at it, I hope they will also address the five ambulance transports from their campus to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for drug or alcohol OD during the event.

Anonymous said...

Very bad decision. Hope people skip this fun event and go to the band's alternate event. Also hope the band can find that alternate place to play on campus. If they do I will go to that alternate concert and bring my granddaughter with me. I love afrobeat. I hope that's OK that I love it so much. After all I am a white skinned person.

Tom Porter said...

A naive question perhaps, but I'll go ahead and ask it: haven't we all supported and participated for at least several decades now, the notion that it is beneficial and uplifting for all of us - whites included and perhaps most of all - to be exposed to the aspects and contributions of other cultures that make them unique? Is this the inevitable outcome for getting on-board to appreciate others' histories, arts, cuisines, and forms of expression?

What seems to have happened here is that a well-meaning group of kids, a poster-child polyglot assemblage steeped in years of grade-school inclusivity training no doubt further reinforced while some of them attended Hampshire College, decides to form a band.

These poor chaps took the message to heart, and are now being crushed under the cleated wheel of campus hypocrisy. How rich.

Celebrate Diversity - and Hampshire's contributions to diversity of opinion in particular - by reading Richard Rushfield's "Don't Follow Me - I'm Lost" ;-)

Dr. Ed said...

"I also want to see their permit for outdoor fireworks."
"Why? It has nothing to do with your story."
".....five ambulance transports from their campus to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for drug or alcohol OD during the event."

And did Hampshire College Security request assistance from APD as well? (It isn't like they have 63 cops of their own...)

I'm thinking that this is all very relevant and that some of this the rich spoilt-brat stuff that you'll blame on Planet UMass actually is the responsibility of what some years is THE most expensive private college in the nation,a largess we all subsidize with our tax dollars.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, APD did respond to neighboring Farmington Road just before midnight for "college aged drunk males" making a lot of racket and verbally assaulting a women while she was walking her dog.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Hampshire student in vicious attack mode actually went to the event.

I doubt it.

She sure ruined it for everyone else!

Dr. Ed said...

verbally assaulting a women while she was walking her dog


Folks, I think this is a little bit more serious than someone urinating on your lawn -- I really do.

Will Princess Stephanie be asking Hampshire College to punish the miscreants? (I'm not holding my breath...)

Dr. Ed said...

To the members of the band -- you want to file an OCR Complaint -- against Hampshire College itself.

The event was on Hampshire College land, enforced by Hampshire College's police/security, the event authorized by Hampshire College and funded by money which Hampshire College itself collected from its students qua students.

The fact it was a student committee doing this is irrelevant -- Hampshire COLLEGE authorized them to do so -- and as you point out, it was their staff adviser whom you were also dealing with.

The young lady whose racial group is "mixed" should personally file an additional complaint in her own name -- "mixed race" is now a Federally-accepted racial group and hence she was discriminated against by being a member of that racial group -- i.e. "not being Black enough" is every bit as discriminatory against someone of Mixed Race as "being Black" is discriminatory against someone who is African American.

And there is nothing wrong with each and every one of you filing a complaint in your own name -- OCR takes racial discrimination seriously, Hampshire College screwed up BADLY and you will not believe the paperwork that Hampshire is going to have to fill out should you file with OCR.

The good news -- there is a damn good chance that the "Settlement" for this will include Hampshire College paying you to perform at a special concert that all the top administrators "volunteer to" attend and promote.

My Doctorate is in Education, as are the two grad degrees before it -- I KNOW how badly Hampshire College screwed up here, and they did, and you ought to call them on it.

Larry knows how to contact me if you need help but just tell OCR what happened. Oh, and embarrass Bill Newman of the ACLU -- he really ought to be screaming about this, and this is egregious enough for him to actually do so.

Anonymous said...

since hampshire college is one of the most expensive schools in the country…they have very little of an endowment fund, and according to the boston globe had empty seats this year in the incoming freshman class… would be interesting to see the stats of % of economically disadvantaged students who are also students of color and the # of actually black students ...

Anonymous said...

it would be interesting to see the stats of % of economically disadvantaged students who are also students of color and the # of actually black students ...

You mean we actually gotta ADMIT low-income Black kids as, ummm, STUDENTS??? We actually have to "walk the walk" on this social justice stuff, instead of just have a bunch of rich White kids?

Hell NO! We want kids with money! MONEY!!!!

(On a more serious note, companies that are near the brink financially tend to make rather stupid decisions -- maybe that is the case here...)

Anonymous said...

Man, this is really f***** up. Shame on these kids and shame on the college for allowing this uber pseudo pc crap to happen. Seems like the melting pot multiculturalism that Amherst espouses has taken a very bizarre turn. Next thing you know we'll be turning away a black actor who plays King Lear or a white musician who plays Coltrane or Byrd. Gotta keep the racial stereotypes alive & well, ya know?

Anonymous said...

I think this indecent defines a significant portion of Amherst well. They say one thing and act in a completely different way. They are hypocrites. Pure and simple. Look around there are many. It starts in the public school system and goes out from there. The only difference is this disgusting display of hypocrisy has been exposed for all to see. The rest are just covered up and ignored.

Anonymous said...

a nice summary, "the member of the hype committee who was the most involved in the discussion does not believe in cultural appropriation and does believe in reverse racism, and it is likely (but in no way confirmed) that they started deleting the comments of people of color who were angry and responding to the racist images and harrassment without deleting the slurring posts. at this point everybody got really angry and random people, hampshire students, and shokazoba band members started posting all at once about silencing people of color, cultural appropriation, arguing online, censorship, and all kinds of things, but since there wasn't really any organized back and forth conversation format and everyone was talking about everything at the same time, shokazoba concluded that they were being discriminated against for being white and playing their music.they and their friends started posting a lot of colorblind rhetoric and accusing hampshire students of reverse racism, insisting that we're all shades of brown, and that we're all from africa, and love and music and harmony are more important than arguing, and that jewish/irish/italian people's struggles in more recent history are....relevant at all to colonial/imperial histories of people of color's oppression.shokazoba's still pissed even though they were paid and is trying to drum up as much press as possible about this, insisting that they were censored for being white and appropriative instead of for expressing racist viewpoints.this was probably a good idea, judging by lil b getting glitterbombed last year when students weren't happy with him playing bc of his misogynistic lyrics. hampshire students were rude because they were pissed at HYPE and shokazoba, and shokazoba were rude because they were pissed about their right to play appropriative music being questioned (it was not being censored at that point, just questioned and discussed) and established themselves in their responses as people whose understandings of racism were vastly different from anybody with a lived or academic understanding of racism, and hampshire students decided they weren't comfortable with them playing anymore"

Anonymous said...

We are all family and families share--food, music, ideas, support....

Anonymous said...

Someone has to fill me in on this notion of "cultural appropriation".

This sounds like damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you are white performing music that has multi-cultural roots, you are engaged in "cultural appropriation"??? What if you love this music?

Somebody help me out here.

Anonymous said...

Once this incident gets to Fox News, all semblance of a civilized discussion of the issues raised, however wrongheaded, will go out the window. It will revert to more "us versus them".

This is how we process ideas in 21st century America.

Anonymous said...

So students raised questions about the band on social media sites.

The band responded back angrily on social media sites.

Then the band was disinvited.

In other words, students were allowed to raise questions, but were supposed to be insulated from the blowback from those questions.

The students were protected from questions they raised that were offensive to others.

And Hampshire College believes that this outcome is better than the alternatives. Do I have this right?

Anonymous said...

Larry, this issue just made it to Gawker (hugely popular pop culture site):

Anonymous said...

Still nothing from the Gazette.

Does this surprise you, Larry, that the Gazette can't cover a fire, cover this story, and chew gum at the same time? Are they down to three staff people and a mimeograph machine there on Conz Street?

So one rapidly aging fifty-something former martial arts athlete with family responsibilities can outrun their entire operation?

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, my lower back and legs are sore as Hell from all the squating to get the right photo angles.

Back in the day ...

Anonymous said...

"Cultural appropriation"?

They say they're concerned about that at Hampshire College.

What the hell does it mean? There must be someone from up there that can illuminate this.

I hear the sound of someone trying to micromanage how we enjoy music, art, and literature. Maybe I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Cultural appropriation?" Those words give me the creepy crawlies. Sounds like futuristic double-speak. Perhaps it's time to move out of Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Those 30 Hampshire College students need to be locked in a room with The Collected Works of George Orwell, and not allowed out until they've finished.

Anonymous said...

Orwell was a socialist, you know.

Also wrote in English, a language that I'm not so sure that the Hampsters comprehend well enough to understand what he was really saying.

Hey, like wow man, fewer words. That's like, wow man.....

(They already understand the concept that words mean whatever you want them to mean...)

Dr. Ed (who would like Allen West as President said...

I think that the comment about how they'll all be quite rich quite soon is quite true. Hampshire has messed up big time -- kinda like driving drunk on the wrong side of the road and having a head-on collision with a marked police cruiser messed up badly. Kinda like bragging to the arresting officer how intoxicated you are messed up badly. Kinda like asking the judge then next morning "what f**** part of 'guilty' do you not f***ing understand?" messed up badly.

Hampshire could have gotten out of this -- Ive seen it done -- it just is that they were too arrogant or too stupid (or both) to do so. S*cks to be them....

Dr. Ed said...

As an aside, I care about as much about the fact that he is from Georgia as I do about the color of his skin -- I've met him personally and I like the content of his character -- and the fact he has a brain as well.

He is the real deal. Vote West!

StudebakerHawk said...

Hear Shokazoba's side of the story in their interview on They have a 40 minute interview in the top show, followed by a few of their best songs.