A Misunderstanding

by Jon Hollander | 5/3/02 5:00am

To the Editor:

In his letter to the editor on April 30, "A Misrepresentation," Nilanjan Banerjee '01 claims that he chooses free speech over political correctness when he wears one of his four "Dartmouth Indian" T-shirts. This statement is one heard many times on this campus, but it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.

Mr. Banerjee is perfectly within his legal right to wear such a shirt, but to do so is a conscious choice that he makes. The shirt itself sends a message that he must take ownership of. If I, as a member of this community, decided to make a shirt that said, "World Trade Center victims got what they deserved," I would be within my rights to wear it. But the message on the shirt is a hurtful one that would show a disregard for other members of the community. By wearing the shirt, I would be further victimizing those who have suffered, both directly and indirectly, from the horrific, unjustifiable attack on Sept. 11. Would Mr. Banerjee wear such a shirt to show that he will "take free speech any day of the week?" The same disregard for the feelings and experiences of other members of our community is shown by those who wear the "Indian mascot" paraphernalia. The debate is not about free speech, it is about the choices we make and how they impact those around us.