My impression is that some do but others do not. They feel that they know the best way forward already, so they formulate lists with demands rather than calling attention to problems and urging study. Some see those who disagree with their demands as disrespecting them. You wrote, "White people tend to avoid talking about race, perhaps because they believe these conversations always end up condemning them. But the time has come to push past our discomfort, confront implicit biases, and acknowledge their devastating effects." I agree with all that. But I think that the task before us is much bigger than confronting implicit biases.
When I talk to black students on different campuses, I find tremendous diversity of opinion about the protests roiling colleges and the best way forward. If you and I held a summit and sought advice exclusively from prominent black intellectuals about how best to respond, or what student activists are getting right and wrong, Henry Louis Gates, Melissa Harris Perry, bell hooks, Glenn Loury, Cornell West, John McWhorter, Thomas Sowell, Roxanne Gay, William Darity, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barack Obama, Ward Connerly, Jamilah Lemieux, Michael Eric Dyson, Salamishah Tillet, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Janice Rogers Brown, and Randall Kennedy would have enough honest disagreements to span a decade of debates.
I perceive far less diversity of opinion among last semester's campus protestors. And I fear the result will be inadequate solutions of the sort that are inevitable when the conversation shaping them lacks breadth, rigor, and the crucible of debate. I don't blame progressive campus activists for all of this. Indeed, I laud them for caring more than most about addressing racial injustice and lament that they aren't joined in that effort by more of their peers. But I do believe that they do real harm when folks with different views do try to enter the conversation, only to be met with screams of "You're disgusting." To me, that inevitably dissuades other people from speaking up and many valuable contributions are lost as a result.
Godley: I suspect that the disconnect between how Yale presents itself and the reality of racial strife at Yale is partly due to students’ tendency to academically self-segregate. For example, many students graduate from Yale without taking a single African-American Studies or Women’s Gender or Sexuality Studies course. Students are naturally going to avoid these classes if they do not believe that they relate to their interests.
As a result, black students are overrepresented in Af-Am Studies classes. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, I cannot help but roll my eyes when white students defend themselves by saying that they simply “don’t understand” what it is like to be a minority, as if the minority experience is not well documented in current events and in literature. The people of color at Yale can articulate injustices, no matter how nuanced, not only because of their lived experience but also because of the vocabulary and theoretical framework that these classes and the articles they read have given them. But, it seems as if white students tend to shy away from the topic of race because they not only lack the experience, but the educational and theoretical foundation to address it. Although Yale projects this image of a diverse community in which people are smart enough to avoid offending others with their ignorance, due to this self-segregation, many students of color at Yale feel isolated and disrespected by the majority population.