This past weekend, a flyer mounting racist and xenophobic attacks against city residents appeared in mailboxes and doorways across the East Side of Providence and on Brown’s campus. At a press conference organized by the NAACP in response, Mayor Elorza insisted that “[Providence] is an inclusive city… this flyer is against everything that we stand for.” These abhorrent flyers are not, however, the first of their kind to appear. For months, students at Brown have been finding posters from fascist and white nationalist groups posted around campus—all too often met with a response that echoes Elorza: “this is not who we are; where is this hatred coming from?”
The flyers—and the vile ideologies they espouse—are not accidents or flukes, but internal to the institutions and communities we are a part of. Those of us who organize large parts of our lives around the academy have lost the privilege of surprise when we learn that Richard Spencer spent two years in a Ph.D program at Duke or that Curtis Yarvin, an influential writer for the alt-right, earned his bachelor's from Brown.
We at the university must not delude ourselves that anti-blackness, fascism, and white nationalism are alien threats, emanating from elsewhere to impinge on our community. To do so is to succumb to a dangerous fantasy that lets us wash our hands of responsibility. Nor should we assure ourselves that it’s ‘a few bad apples.’ No, the flyers demand critical self-reflection; we must hold ourselves accountable, as uncomfortable as it is. We need a relentless critique of the ways that we sustain and reproduce fascism and anti-blackness in our daily lives, our material investments, our entertainment media, our practices of knowledge production, and the concepts we use to think the world.