Charles Hilu was contacted in advance of this Op-Ed’s publication. He voiced no major concerns about material misrepresentations of facts or events. The Michigan Daily is committed to publishing a variety of Op-Eds & Letters to the Editor. Submit one here.
On March 25th, 2022, an article titled, “Too Many White People in Trotter Multicultural Center, Graduate Student Claims,” was published by The Michigan Review’s Charles Hilu. This article poorly attempts to speculate the thought process of the Black graduate student at the University of Michigan, Byron Brooks. Brooks notably wrote a letter to the Board of Regents in which he claims that the presence of white-identifying students in Trotter Multicultural Center is threatening the building’s utility as a safe space for people of color. Though this subject may be a touchy one to be analyzed and debated, Hilu, in his article, goes so far as to tastelessly disrespect and disregard the concerns of Brooks and other students of color at the University of Michigan.
At the beginning of the article, Hilu very aggressively coins Brooks as a “racist.” Though the coining of Brooks as a “racist” is open to debate, before even articulating his reasoning Hilu demeans the valuable thoughts of a student who is, rightfully, concerned with his community’s well-being. In the third paragraph of this work, Hilu also writes that a “common sense of decency” is uncommon in U-M students. Hilu demonstrated a lack of genuine intellectual rigor; instead of honestly contending with the argument Brooks was making, Hilu depended on tired dog whistles to whip his audience into a frenzy. Hilu has destroyed his own credibility by shutting down Brooks’s attempts to facilitate an honest conversation about privilege and security for people of color on our campus. The point of Brooks’s letter, and very explicitly, the core of his requests at the end of his writing, is ignorantly thrown away by Hilu.
Later in the article, Hilu writes — in regards to Brooks’s suggestion that the University of Michigan Board of Regents take action and uphold their equity — that “His words are vague because he knows the only thing that would remedy his concerns is some form of racial segregation or privilege.” First and foremost — though one could perhaps infer based upon the tone of the letter that Brooks would prefer the segregation of students — the only thing that Brooks explicitly asks of those in power at the University is that they address this issue formally on campus and “set up a meeting with student leaders of color accross [sic] campus to ensure that true equity is being upheld.” Secondly, a productive article would suggest possible solutions as opposed to simply bashing a student for speaking out.
Though Brooks’s ideas are debatable, this article has misused and misconstrued the meaning behind Brooks’s original letter and ultimately demonstrates to all students that if they genuinely express themselves to those who have the power to make change, they will be publicly ridiculed instead of worked with. The vicious attacks Hilu instill in his article only reinforce the feelings of discomfort that students may feel on campus and the doubt that students may have in the willingness of policy makers to address their needs. Through and through, Hilu’s article only stains his reputation as a writer and the University of Michigan’s image as an institution.
Hilu, in his article, also teases and disrespects Brooks when he infers that Brooks has a fear of white people. Racial trauma is described as “mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes.” This is an issue much more abundant in today’s younger generation than one would think, and it is an adversity to be taken seriously, yet Hilu makes fun of this concept. Making fun of a topic that’s significant in the lives of many people of color all across the nation is simply inappropriate. Again, Brooks’s ideas on the occupancy of white individuals in the Trotter Multicultural Center should be debated, but Hilu disregarding the legitimate and real racial trauma that many people at the University relate to is no better than openly spitting on the mental health of students.
So, what should be done in response to the inappropriate work published by the Michigan Review? This article should immediately be taken down, not because it is completely useless in terms of identifying an issue to be discussed at the University, but because it is demeaning to the feelings of students and wounding the integrity that the University of Michigan works hard to reinforce. On top of this, the Michigan Review should offer all students who identify as a person of color a public apology for openly mocking and disregarding the racial trauma that is very real for many. Lastly, students at the University, with the backing of administration, should have the opportunity to discuss the finer nuances of racial trauma and what designated multicultural spaces mean to one another. The issue at hand, the occupancy of white people in Trotter Multicultural Center, is one that students must properly discuss among one another with the help of the University. No student or group of students should be belittled for expressing their genuine grievances, or be mocked for their identity or their experiences.
Benjamin Colding is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.