Remove 'The Birth of a Nation' posters from Dodge hallway

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D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” is a 1915 film that depicts black people as aggressive, unintelligent subhumans. It celebrates lynching and glamorizes the Ku Klux Klan. It is a racist incitement to violence against African Americans. While it is important to remember the historical events surrounding this film, we don’t need a poster to do that.

The group of students working to remove the poster and its accompanying advertisement from the hallway of Chapman’s Marion Knott Studios believe these artifacts are racist, irrelevant and misplaced. Our call for their removal is not a “desire to remove something whose presence contributes to our collective education,” as President Daniele Struppa wrote in his April 10 column. It is a call to remove a symbol of hate from a place of honor in our halls. That is not censorship. That does not “take away an opportunity for students to confront a problematic past.”

These opportunities are already present in the classroom, through thoughtful and contextualized study and conversation. A poster is not educational. It implies a commemoration. Some students are not aware of the poster’s presence or significance, but for the students and faculty who are, the poster is a reminder of the pervasiveness of hate.

We do not advocate against the study of this film. In fact, we believe that “The Birth of a Nation” is an excellent case study in the power of filmmaking. As filmmakers, we need to consider the implications of our work. We must remember that film can be used as a tool, both positively and negatively. The Dodge community is thoughtful and reflective enough to do this on its own, unaided by a poster.

We come to Chapman hoping for a respectful environment that upholds our dignity. How can black students be expected to thrive when they continuously walk by a tribute to a film that denies their humanity? How can you foster a culture of acceptance and collaboration when you promote a film that argues against it? Even Chapman’s official discrimination policy prohibits visual harassment “through the use of … posters, objects, or symbols that ridicule or demean an individual’s or group of individuals’ race.” This film does just that.

Please join us in asking Dean Robert Bassett and Chapman University to remove this poster as soon as possible from the hallway of Dodge College.