Harvard students: Peretz invitation ‘lends legitimacy and respectability to views that can only be described as abhorrent and racist’

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The following letter was recently delivered to the organizers of the Social Studies 50th Anniversary Celebration:

Dear Professor Tuck and Dr. Bernstein,

We are writing on behalf of the Harvard Islamic Society, Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA, Society of Arab Students and Latinas Unidas. In a recent blog post for The New Republic Martin Peretz, wrote:

“But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imaam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

He had the following to say about Mexicans in another TNR piece:

“Well, I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations, not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.”

And the Washington Post reported the following remarks Mr. Peretz made about African Americans:

Citing statistics on out-of-wedlock births among blacks, Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, said, “So many in the black population  are afflicted by cultural deficiencies.” Asked what he meant, Peretz responded, “I would guess that in the ghetto a lot of mothers don’t appreciate the importance of schooling.” Mfume challenged Peretz, saying, “You can’t really believe that. Every mother wants the best for their children.” Peretz agreed, then added, “But a mother who is on crack is in no position to help her children get through school.” Some in the audience of 2,600 young Jewish leaders hissed at Peretz’s remarks.

We acknowledge Mr. Peretz’s right to hold and express these views, but we are disturbed that he is honored at Harvard University by being invited to speak at the Social Studies Anniversary Celebration on September 25. Such an invitation lends legitimacy and respectability to views that can only be described as abhorrent and racist in their implication that the rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution should be withheld from certain citizens based on their religious affiliation.

While the organizers of the Celebration cannot be held accountable for every statement made by its guests, we the undersigned take great exception to Harvard giving such ideas a platform, and we worry that in so doing the University, and the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies in particular, will be alienating a large segment of its student body. In light of these concerns, we respectfully ask that you reconsider having Mr. Peretz as one of the Celebration’s speakers, or at least that he be publicly challenged to defend views that are, in our opinion, indefensible.


Abdelnasser Rashid, Harvard Islamic Society
Maricruz Rodriguez, Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA
Annissa Alusi, Harvard Society of Arab Students
Beverly Pozuelos, Latinas Unidas


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