Updated June 2, 2017
It was an average, cool, sunny day in Olympia, WA today. Yet, tension fell heavy in the air. At Evergreen State College, a battle was going on, and it all started with a request to change the structure of Evergreen’s traditional Day of Absence.
Evergreen State College is nationally known for it’s unique curriculum and history of student movements and activism dating back into the 1970’s.
Evergreen’s Day of Absence, organized by student managed First People’s Multicultural Advising Services, is based on the play by Douglas Turner Ward in which people of color decided to leave their job duties as an act of solidarity and a show of their strength and value. Students of color at Evergreen State College choose one day of the year to not only do the same, but invite all students to be off campus and hopefully participate in open discussions on racial topics.
This year, they decided to do things a little differently. This year, they asked the white students to leave campus for the day, allowing the students of color to take on the power role of getting to stay in their position. Day of Absence organizer, Rashida Love, sent out the invitation for all who wished to join in solidarity, as was her tradition to send out the invitations.
Professor Bret Weinstein was having none of it.
He openly voiced his opposition to this idea in an email to Rashida Love, copying in all of the staff and faculty at Evergreen.
The email exchange continued with other faculty members supporting Love, chiming in that they were appalled at Weinstein’s response. Weinstein justified his email, stating that he had European Jewish roots and that his ancestors were also persecuted, therefore he saw no purpose in the need to switch roles for a day.
Weinstein stated in one email, “Many will recognize Weinstein as a German/Jewish name. My ancestors were all European Jews, primarily from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. European Jews like my ancestors have faced repeated waves of anti-Semitic persecution stretching back at least as far as the 3rd century B.C.E. The most recent wave was at its height a mere 25 years before my birth. The Nazis were then at the peak of their “final solution to the Jewish question.”
The exchanges continued, with one response of “If I told you I had cancer, would you look at me and say, oh well, I have lupus? This isn’t about YOU Weinstein!”
The email exchanges were publicized to the student body and prompted another turn in the Day of Absence. The students decided it would now be focused directly onto Weinstein, and the first Day of Absence to which he has ever been opposed.
As the students rose in protest, Weinstein was confronted. He was riddled with questions, and students tried to logically provide an understanding for him, but Weinstein, unwilling to accept the students’ perspectives, would not back down from his position. Instead, he called the police on a peaceful crowd.
Twitter exploded as Evergreen students uploaded videos, went live on Facebook and Periscope and started the hashtag #ExposeEvergreen.
White students at Evergreen State College have formed a group they call The White Allies, students who will surround the students of color, forming a barrier to protect them.
The chanting students left the meeting building and met up with campus Officer Timothy O’dell. As the students attempted to explain to Officer O’dell what had just happened, the officer dove through The White Allies, heading straight for the students of color.
The students were shocked at the behavior, continuing their march to the Red Square, an on-campus location. Yet, when they arrived, they were met by Washington State Troopers and Olympia Police officers. There, the students report, they were threatened with arrests and mace. The students were accused of cornering the racist Professor and his student.
The students of Evergreen refused to back down. They protested in shifts and turned in a set of demands. They met with Evergreen State College President, George Bridges, and Vice President of Student Affairs, Wendy Endress. Among the demands included the firing of Bret Weinstein and several other openly racist faculty members. Students plan to continue protesting until their demands are met.
In an attempt to defend his position, Bret Weinstein, a self-proclaimed left progressive ran swiftly towards right-wing conservative media to tell his side of the story. The conservative media quickly ate up Weinstein’s version and blasted it across the country, vilifying Evergreen College’s students of color.
White supremacists from Portland, OR, oddly were willing to side with Weinstein, who is of Jewish descent, presenting that white skin matters more when it comes to organizing against people of color. A phone call came into Evergreen State College, a voice threatening to come on campus and open fire. White supremacists from Portland stated they planned to travel the two hours north to protest on Evergreen’s campus, a campus which holds an open policy to protests, apparently unless it’s a protest held by students of color.
The majority of the Evergreen Staff was appalled by their fellow professor’s behavior, releasing a solidarity statement in support of the students. The statement is signed by over fifty Evergreen Professors.
As Weinstein’s supporters took to Twitter, they took over the student created #ExposeEvergreen hashtag, urgently posting unrelated, anti-Semite accusations against the students, filling up the hashtag with irrelevant argument, in an attempt to hide the beginning posts of the race bating enacted by Weinstein and his supporters.
Amazon best-selling author of CULT CHILD, Vennie Kocsis, whose child of color attends Evergreen State College, hit back, seemingly making it her daily mission to keep the original student posts at the top of the Twitter #ExposeEvergreen hasthtag, from her personal account, @VennieKocsis. We reached out to her for a comment, but she cited that upon the advice of her council, she has declined to speak to the press at this time.
This video shows one of Weinstein’s followers lose his cool and call a student of color “useless.”
On June 2, 2017, the following student press release was publicized as a collective statement from the students.