I hesitate to plunge back into Dartmouth’s Indian wars, a topic on which I have disagreed with Scott and probably John too. However, since I expropriated the “last word” on the matter, I’d like to link to this excellent editorial in the Dartmouth Review by Daniel Linsalata, which tends strongly towards Scott’s position and has prompted these few additional thoughts.
It seems to me that the heart of the current battle stems from this statement by “representatives” of Dartmouth’s Native American Community (among whom, Lansalata points out, there are very few students):
As Native people, the right to decide what offends us belongs to us and us alone. It is arrogant for non-Native people to presume that they somehow have this right.
At one level, of course, this statement is a truism — if you’re offended, you’re offended. But questions arise when you try to translate the subjective state of being offended into accusations of racism. Given the seriousness of such accusations and the things that accompany them, such assertions look like a power grab, and it’s probably no coincidence that the Native American representatives are using the language of “power” here — as when they describe the “objectification” of the Indian (i.e., the use of the image) as “about power.”
The existence of the power struggle helps explain, I think, why some of Dartmouth’s Native Americans are so quick to take offense. They are asserting their “right” (and their power) to do so. I believe it also helps explain why some students are pushing back with conduct some of which may reasonably be viewed as offensive.
UPDATE: An example of “push-back” that apparently has the campus in an uproar can be found here.
This column in the Review by Emily Ghods-Esfahani is also worth reading. She frames the issue this way:
If a student makes a sub-standard moral judgment that