This Morning at Harvard Law School We Woke Up to a Hate Crime
November 19, 2015 at 5:19 am
This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime.The hallways of Harvard Law School are lined with portraits of every tenured professor in the history of the university. As a first-year law student, the first time that I walked down those hallways I was painfully aware of the white men that take up most of the space on the walls, but also proud to see black professors hanging right beside them. The portraits make me feel a strange tension of pain yet promise. I am constantly reminded of the legacy of white supremacy that founded this school and still breathes through every classroom and lecture hall. I am also shown the small inroads that professors of color have made, breaking apart the notion that whiteness is the epitome of legal scholarship. This is how I felt yesterday walking through those hallways.
This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime.The portraits of black professors, the ones that bring me and so many other black students feelings of pride and promise, were defaced. Their faces were covered with a single piece of black tape, crossing them out of Harvard Law School’s legacy of legal scholarship. Their faces were slashed through, X-ing them out, marking them as maybe unwanted or maybe unworthy or maybe simply too antithetical to the legacy of white supremacy on which Harvard Law School has been built. Harvard Law School was, after all, founded with the money from the sale of over 100 Antiguan enslaved people (because they were not slaves but people who were brutally and inhumanely enslaved) by the Royall family. To this day, the Royall family crest is the seal for Harvard Law School, and their legacy of white supremacy drips from every corner of the campus, like the blood of the 77 enslaved people murdered after a slave revolt on the Royall plantation. The defacing of the portraits of black professors this morning is a further reminder that white supremacy built this place, is the foundation of this place, and that we never have and still do not belong here.
We are not afraid.This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime. And tomorrow you will wake up to a hate crime on your campus too. And they — the cowards who deface the portraits of black professors, who hang nooses in front of black dorms, who draw swatstikas with human feces — want for that to be the end of the story. But we, black students on campus, are not afraid of what you do under the covers of darkness and hatred and cowardice. We will march and scream and sit in and walk out and shout our demands and make ourselves heard and tear down these hallways of white supremacy because we belong here too. And no longer can you make us feel that we do not belong here. Because our sweat and blood and death and courage is what really built these hallways. This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime. And what we do next will shake white supremacy at Harvard Law School to its core.
Michele Hall is a 2L at Harvard Law School.