From your description alone, I can appreciate that Dr. Quenette is a very sick human being- but not “sick” as in “disgusting”, “sick” as in “unwell.” This much is clear from the items you cite in #6, above, and on that basis alone it seems clear that the University, not the professor, has failed you in the area of taking more care of and with its faculty.
On the issue of race and racism, Dr. Quenette is clearly ignorant and racist, though, being ignorant, she likely does not realize her own racism. I don’t see anywhere in your account that states that she was unapologetic or mean-spirited or that intentional harm was her goal. You outline, clearly, all of the harms that come from her attitudes and behaviors; but you do not demonstrate that she spoke with the intention of hurting others. While this does not excuse her behavior; it does lead me to question your reaction.
What I read in this open letter was a reaction to “violence” with more violence. Put another way, you have chosen to wield your pen like a sword and strike deep at the heart of not any institution or concept, but rather another human being. For this reason, I found your letter to be very difficult to read, truly violent in its own way, and deeply disturbing. That you have chosen to so publicly eviscerate Dr. Quenette is, perhaps, the most painful part of your reaction for me.
In my experience, our society is sick, it is suffering, and it is in deep need of healing- still, after 100 years and then again after another 50 years. To my mind, this healing does not begin by picking up a pen and wielding it as a sword or by brandishing our tongues as daggers; rather, it begins by picking up our human hearts and using them as salve.
Racism is about division, separation, dehumanization. And these are the same ends this letter serves. “The university’s goal is to provide an environment where individuals are free to develop intellectually, personally, professionally, and socially without intimidation or fear. Intimidation and harassment affect not only those who suffer the harassment but also the entire community.” You’ve taken an eye for an eye and left this woman blind. But worse, still, since this was a public humiliation rather than a private one, so many others will read your letter and react, not respond, in kind, bringing more blindness and pain to our larger, human community.
While you will likely get a win at the University; I doubt you will have scored advancement in the larger issue as a whole. Unfortunately, your letter will take minds that were on the verge of opening and screw them tight shut- fear. It will keep people from sharing their experience honestly and openly for fear of retribution- oppression. It will put people longing to be understood and to understand on the defensive- division. It will incite anger- pain and suffering.
Racism has long since been described as a “disease;” and like any good disease, all it wants is to perpetuate pain and suffering. Also like any good disease, it is perfectly colorblind. Racism, as a disease, expresses itself differently in each of us, to be sure. But in all of us it has the power to make us do hurtful things to one another if we choose to give it that power. Letters like this, while attempting to shine a spotlight on the ills of institutional, structural and individual racism, will only ever serve to empower the disease to do more harm- both to the authors, the target of the letter, and ultimately to our larger human community.
Spotlights are bright and harsh. They force us to shut our doors and shutter our windows against them. Only the gentleness and warmth of the sun and the human heart will draw us back out again.