I thought about hitting delete, but instead decided to respond and educate the writer on proper correspondence, history and privilege. I am, after all, an educator. Plus, sometimes I think that treating seemingly idiotic rhetorical attacks like this as serious might (one in a thousand times) get someone to pause and re-think. Sometimes, someone might sound like an ass when they are just frustrated by their own ignorance.
Here is my response:
To Whom It May Concern,
First, it is polite and professional when writing to people whom you do not know to open your e-mail messages with a salutation, to use a closing that identifies who the writer is, particularly when that is not clear from the e-mail address, and to use proper grammar and punctuation.
Second, segregation was a legal arrangement that was outlawed with the Civil Rights act of 1964. Under segregation, certain groups of people -- specifically African Americans, but also Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, Jews, and Native Americans -- were barred from using the same public facilities used by other groups of people -- specifically white or Anglo-Americans. No one has been barred from any event based on race, gender, sexuality, or any other reason.
Third, the world, the United States, [this city], and [this college] include many different groups of people, with different ideas, cultures, histories, and experiences. Part of the role of colleges is to expose and educate students and the community about these various experiences. That is the purpose of these events: to educate students about wide variety of people, experiences, and lives that might be different from their own and about which they might know very little.
Fourth, if you are honestly interested in the questions that you raise, perhaps you might be interested in taking courses or reading about social theory, particularly in the field of sociology. You might start with this exercise called "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf), which has been adapted to expose different types of invisible privilege, such as with "The Black Male Privileges Checklist" (http://jewelwoods.com/node/9), and "The Daily Effects of Straight Privilege" (http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm).**
Thank you for your interest, and please know that you are welcome at all events,
I suppose if I got more missives like this one, I would not respond and would not be so generous in giving the benefit of the doubt that they aren't just being an overly-privileged ass. I'm fortunate -- privileged -- that I don't get more of these letters since most people either don't care about the events or are glad to hear more about anything.*** Otherwise, all responses have been favorable.
Still, there is always someone who thinks that, if someone else out there is getting attention, if someone else out there is being celebrated, if someone else out there gets one tiny little bit of anything, then that means that it -- whatever "it" is -- is being taken from them. They still have a bit to learn from their education. Sometimes I wonder if some people are ineducable because they are not frustrated by their own ignorance, but wallow in it.
Anyway, in light of my history (that's a bit of sarcasm there), was I too bitchy in my response? I made sure to include my chair in the response, since he was copied on one of the !!!!????..... missives.
*Seriously, I'm not using these punctuation marks as a euphemism for profanity. I'm poking fun of the e-mail's use of multiple punctuation marks. Every punctuation mark was repeated several times in a row, just like this....???? !!!
**These were the only ones that I had on hand or could find in a two-second Google search. Any other suggestions are welcome because I want to use them in an exercise on multiple identities and privilege in my Women's Studies class in the fall.
***The only other complaint about these events that I have received has been one from a student complaining that the announcements about the events dropped into their e-mail box at 2 am and that made their cellphone beep and they kept their cellphone by their bed in case of emergency and could I please go to sleep and quit bothering them? (I have no control over when the announcements arrive in the in boxes -- I send them out in the morning and they are vetted by the IT department)