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College President Apologizes Over Three Simple Words in Her Email to Students About Michael Brown and Eric Garner

"I am committed to working as a white ally, to learning from the lived experiences of people of color, and to acknowledging mistakes, despite my best intentions."

Smith College president

The president of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, apologized last Friday after sparking controversy for using three simple words in an email to her student body: "All lives matter."

Smith College president Smith College president Kathleen McCartney apologized for words she used in a recent email (Smith College)

Those words, written by president Kathleen McCartney in the subject line of a recent campus message, were intended to offer support to those students protesting grand jury decisions not to indict former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the unrelated deaths of unarmed black men, Fox News reported.

McCartney also closed her email with the following words: "We are united in our insistence that all lives matter."

Campus critics wasted no time in protesting McCartney's "all lives matter" messaging, though, contending that it diminished the importance that protesters have placed on the loss of African American lives with the use of a similar mantra, "black lives matter."

While McCartney sent the initial email in an effort to stand behind protesters, controversy surrounding her choice of words led her to pen a follow-up email just hours later on Friday evening apologizing for her language.

"I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag 'all lives matter'  has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against Black people," the college president's email read.

See the full text of her apology below:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I am writing as a follow-up to my email from earlier today to reflect what I have already learned from members of the community. Specifically, I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag “all lives matter” has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against Black people. I appreciate the links to articles you sent me to make this point. I found your own words even more helpful. Here are excerpts from two student messages:

“Yes it is very true that all lives matter, but it's not the value of all lives that are being questioned. Social media has taken to the hashtag blacklivesmatter because it is black lives that seem to be undervalued.”

“While the idea that all lives matter is certainly true, it is especially important at this time that we, as allies in a movement for justice, remember who this movement is about. The impulse to universalize this experience of pain, so that we can all feel sympathy, is a good one. However, it also makes it easy to forget who is at the center of this struggle: black men, women, and children. It minimizes the anti-blackness of this the current situation; yes, all lives matter, but not all lives are being targeted for police brutality. The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.”

I thank those of you who shared your wisdom and wise counsel with me today. I am committed to working as a white ally, to learning from the lived experiences of people of color, and to acknowledging mistakes, despite my best intentions.

Sincerely,

Kathleen McCartney

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that McCartney led a campus vigil Monday afternoon following the controversy.

(H/T: Fox News)

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