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Letter to the Editor: ‘Thoughtful’ letter part of good dialogue

I appreciated the letter to the editor from LuAnn Chiola, in which she offered a thoughtful case for the student protesters who prevented author Charles Murray from speaking at a Middlebury College podium. Obviously reasonable people differ on this issue.
However, Ms. Chiola does not accurately reflect what I wrote when she criticizes my defense of Murray’s right to articulate his sometimes abhorrent views. I did not write of the protesters that “their cause is not rooted in morals or ethics.”
I believe she also inaccurately asserts that I have “a complete lack of understanding of what it means to live in this country without the protections afforded by certain circles of privilege.”
It is true that I am inescapably white. But I applaud the efforts of students and others to highlight the dangers of unexamined white privilege. Whether the topic is the Black Lives Matter movement, the inexcusable targeting of migrant activists by ICE officials, or many of the other indignities inflicted upon minorities, I have often spoken out against racism and in support of people of color.
Regarding the question of whether the Murray protesters’ actions were “politically stupid,” I thought Bill McKibben said it well in his commentary about the incidents. “Shouting someone down ‘reads’ badly to the larger public every single time,” he wrote (emphasis his). “And it is precisely the job of activists to figure out how things are going to read, lest they do real damage to important causes — damage, as in this case, that will inevitably fall mostly on people with fewer resources than Middlebury students.”
I’m glad Ms. Chiola offered her perspective on all this. I’m also heartened that in the wake of the Murray incidents, she and I and many others are now engaged in a healthy and productive dialogue about where we go from here.
Gregory Dennis
Cornwall

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