It’s not every day a liberal Ivy League school is given the opportunity to hear from an individual who can claim membership in three (count ’em, three) protected classes. So why when presented with a chance to hear a lecture by Janet Mock, a black trans woman and LGBT activist, did some students at Brown University throw a hissy fit?
It wasn’t Mock’s credentials, which are unimpeachable. Rather, it was that the students in question belonged to a fourth protected class — Palestinians — and Mock’s invitation was extended by (yuck!) Hillel House.
Hillel’s Moral Voices campaign has chosen the topic of LGBTQ rights this year. This hides the fact that for decades, the state of Israel and Israeli advocacy organizations (like Hillel) have been engaging in pinkwashing, a strategy that tries to improve Israel’s image and rebrand it as a liberal, modern, and ‘hip’ country. By shifting the focus to a very narrow definition of LGBTQ rights (exclusively for queer Israelis and not for queer Palestinians), Israel uses pinkwashing to deflect attention from Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, and the violence that is being carried out against Palestinians.
We are not asking for students to boycott the event, but simply do not want Janet Mock’s invitation to Brown to be part of Hillel’s [and Israel’s] pinkwashing campaign. We therefore ask Janet Mock to accept Brown students’ sponsorship instead of Hillel’s.
But the commotion had a paradoxical effect that ultimately led Mock to cancel the event. Her representative wrote in a statement.
We feel the focus of Janet’s work was lost leading up to the proposed event, and her visit was received with controversy and resistance rather than open dialogue and discussion about the issues closest to Janet’s work in movements for trans liberation, racial justice and intersectional feminism.