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Charles Murray Doesn't Belong Here

By Salma Abdelrahman, Ziyad J. McClean, and Nicholas P. Whittaker

On September 6, Harvard alumnus Charles A. Murray ’65 will, upon invitation by the Harvard College Open Campus Initiative, appear on campus for a talk on his most recent book. Dr. Murray is a well-known sociologist who has written various books on sociology, education, and IQ. We, the Undergraduate Council’s Black Caucus, believe Murray’s blatantly white supremacist theories on race, gender, class, and IQ are fundamentally dangerous.

For the Open Campus Initiative to invite Murray to campus and give him an unchecked platform from which he can participate in and legitimize a tradition of dehumanization of marginalized people—the same tradition that is responsible for the tragedy of Charlottesville (and America’s entire history of racial trauma)—is fundamentally at odds with who we should be as a College. We believe that this event is misguided, and urge Open Campus Initiative to cancel it.

A common thread in Murray’s theories about social welfare, intelligence, and innate ability is an assertion of the natural intellectual and moral inferiority of certain disadvantaged groups of people—notably, as the Southern Poverty Law Center writes, “the Black and Latino communities, women, and the poor”—and the superiority of the white male upper class. This, according to the SPLC, earns him the label of white nationalist. We agree.

SPLC writes that “According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups.” We fail to see how arguing that we, as black students, suffer from innate genetic differences that make us naturally inferior to our white peers is anything but white supremacy.

We acknowledge that these critiques of Murray are most applicable to his earlier work, notably “The Bell Curve.” Open Campus Initiative would argue that they, of course, did not have white supremacist ideologies in mind when they planned this event. But this misses the point. Murray’s ideology is white nationalism and has always been white nationalism. He has never rejected the claims he makes in “The Bell Curve.” Open Campus Initiative invited a white nationalist to campus, and they cannot control what he chooses to bring up in his talk. To assume that race, gender, and class will not ground everything that is discussed during this event is to forget who Charles Murray is. His entire ideology is tainted by white nationalism.

Murray would most likely protest that white supremacy is an unfair characterization of his beliefs: He would argue that he is just dealing with the facts. This mistakenly ignores that he is part of a troubling historical trend of backing bigoted claims with tainted data. Charles Lane argues that, in essence, Murray’s ideology is a rehashing of the philosophies of white supremacist eugenics. These philosophies have already been revealed at length to be fundamentally biased science that are anything but conclusive. Murray is not dealing with the facts. He is twisting the facts by presupposing a certain interpretation of them, one that completely overlooks the influences of racist social and political institutions on individual “success,” however that is measured.

At this political moment, when the very humanity of people of color in this country is being questioned and white supremacy is at the forefront of American political discourse, students ought to stand with their vulnerable peers of color and other marginalized persons on this campus. Instead, OCI has invited someone whose ideology fundamentally threatens their lives and freedoms. How can we begin to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for these groups on this campus while inviting people who call into question their intelligence, worth, and humanity? We believe that doing both is impossible. As such, this event is a mistake.

We are calling on OCI to cancel this event. In the very likely circumstance that the event continues regardless, we will be hosting our own event during Murray’s talk, which will consist of a panel of experts on sociology and race theory who will provide an in-depth explanation of where Murray goes wrong. We urge students to be proactive inquirers, and to challenge the ideology that Murray represents by joining us at Northwest Labs, Room 103 at 6:30 p.m. for the panel discussion, and at 5:45 p.m. outside the Harvard Natural History Museum to rally the community.

At this moment in our history, we need to decide once and for all what values we as a community hold dear, and what side of history we fall on. In inviting Charles Murray to campus, OCI has asserted that white supremacy is a valid ideology, and that it belongs in our community. For the sake of the communities we are a part of, we stand firmly in opposition. Charles Murray does not belong here.

Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 is a Philosophy concentrator in Adams House. Salma Abdelrahman ’20 is a Government concentrator in Leverett House. Ziyad J. McClean ’18 is a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator in Currier House. They write on behalf of the Black Caucus of the Undergraduate Council.

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