On Jan. 20, Purdue provided educational programming around the nation’s 46th presidential inauguration. In a day packed full of discussion, from First Ladies’ fashion; to historical transitions of power; to defending the truth, it’s what we dared not discuss that says the most about us.
Program participants were not representative of our nation’s racial and ethnic diversity, and not one session focused on the crisis at the heart of our need for this programming: the historical and present-day reality of white supremacy and the violence used to establish, protect and enshrine it. This program, in dancing around the central issue, failed to educate Purdue students and others on what is happening in the United States for all the world to see.
Failing to directly address the racist double standard of a heavily militarized response to peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and a lax response to the seditious violence of white supremacist rioters is more than a glaring omission: it’s gaslighting. There are Purdue-connected civic leaders who could speak to this topic. Purdue alumna Dr. Heidi Beirich, co-founder and chief strategist for the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, is an expert on the dangers of white supremacist movements. Students, faculty and staff sorely needed to hear her voice.
Furthermore, failing to dedicate a panel to the historic achievement represented by a first female and first Black and South Asian Vice President is jaw-dropping. Our colleague, Dr. Nadia Brown, is an internationally-recognized scholar of Black women’s politics. Why wasn’t her voice included to understand the significance of the 2021 Inauguration?
There is a term for this: whitewashing. This “day of education” failed to meet the basic prerequisites for civil and civic discourse, which require the participation of diverse constituents and the airing of diverse perspectives.
Below we have provided links to just a few thoughtful pieces (several of which were written by or quote Purdue faculty or alumni) that will help inform students, faculty, and staff about what we have witnessed and what it means for Inauguration Day and our politics going forward.
— Rosalee A. Clawson, professor of political science and Donna Riley, Kamyar Haghighi head of the School of Engineering Education