This Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall, Dr. Charles Murray will discuss Coming Apart, his 2012 book which “explores class divisions in the United States, placing particular emphasis on the White working class.” Murray’s conclusions are upsetting, particularly those in his 1994 book The Bell Curve which drew immense criticism for its assertion that genetic variations between races explain differences in the general socioeconomic success of a race. Regardless, we must decide how we will address the reality of Murray’s visit on Thursday. In this editorial, we will advance one response to Murray’s presence that we believe is an effective choice of action for many. When Charles Murray comes to speak this Thursday, we encourage students of Middlebury — whose mental and physical health permits — to attend the lecture and resist as a collective.
It is our duty to show up and challenge Charles Murray — preferably, with some demonstration of our presence in numbers — to the extent that we are able. We should arm ourselves with information and research that negates Murray’s, not to change Murray’s mind or even to engage with Murray himself, but to engage with one another. We believe this is the most effective way to further progress on our campus and stand in solidarity with those whose humanity is targeted by the arguments of Dr. Charles Murray. We do not find it futile to show up on Thursday. Instead, we believe that all who find themselves capable need to be at the lecture at 4:30 p.m.
We are upset by the influence of men like Murray in this country, and are frustrated by the pressure put upon historically oppressed communities to defend themselves in the face of intellectualized discrimination like Murray’s. There are many valid ways to approach his visit, and we respect and admire any of those who choose to take non-violent action on Thursday.
But we cannot let the words of Murray be normalized or accepted without refute; our presence at such a talk is important not only in working to challenge the ideas we find problematic, but to show those targeted by Murray that we do not condone his beliefs. Again, we do not presume to be able to change Charles Murray’s mind. But we can show our fellow students — students whose humanity Murray would call into question — that we will stand in solidarity together. Murray calls the validity of the lives of marginalized people into question, and the pain of such dehumanizing ideas is redoubled when privileged bystanders react with apathy. We cannot react with apathy. We must demonstrate to our fellow students that we are willing to stand and fight against ideas that invalidate the worth and worthiness of marginalized people, that we take those threats personally and seriously.
Murray spouts and represents the ideals held by many Americans; it is valuable to put a face to this “other side,” a side that has significant presence in our current political environment. We cannot deny that Murray’s views find favor with many — Coming Apart was on the NY Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of 2012. We can’t ignore their influence, as harmful as they are. However, we can — and we must — work against these disturbing ideas. We must look Murray in the face and challenge what he stands for with all our collective might. We must stand up to him and show our peers that we do not tolerate white supremacy at Middlebury, that we do not tolerate white nationalism at Middlebury. We do not believe that ignoring this man (or those like him) is as effective as actively, deliberately resisting him. We need to make clear — to Murray and to the Middlebury community — that rationalizing racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is unacceptable. By showing up on Thursday and resisting him, we will demonstrate our strength and solidarity as a Middlebury community.
We will show our student body, one which includes many identities threatened by Murray’s positions, that we are prepared to resist those who challenge certain identities. No one person on this campus is going to unravel the personal convictions that have formed the basis of Murray’s 40-year career in one lecture. We do not believe this is possible, nor do we believe this is our responsibility. We must consider, however, our community. We can turn this into a space in which to meet students unfamiliar with these topics and show them what we as a community believe in. This is our chance to show our fellow students that we are a tolerant and diverse community that does not subscribe to the base and extremely harmful ideals of Charles Murray. We encourage the Middlebury community to read the range of op-eds submitted to The Campus this week, to research Murray’s arguments, to research counter-arguments and finally, to be there on Thursday — to the extent that we each find ourselves capable — prepared and ready to fight.