Who are the WWC Sons of Liberty?

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Who are the WWC Sons of Liberty?

To have a better idea of what this question is asking, we need to take a look at a historical usage of this name. In 1776, at the height of the conflict between the American colonizers and the British Monarchy, a group led by future president Samuel Adams used examples of civil disobedience, intimidation, and sometimes violence, to push a politically motivated agenda. They called themselves the “Sons of Liberty.” 

This group was a purely reactionary force to the supposed tyrannical oppression of the British Parliament onto the American colonizers and the colonies themselves. One of the most visible examples of so-called civil disobedience was the Boston Tea Party, and later the draft of the American Declaration of Independence. 

 

What does this mean for the SoL on campus? 

First things first, we have to identify them for what they are. The group has risen to the occasion as a reactionary force. But what are they reacting to? Although there is no one specific event that can be identified as the birthing point for this group, it is clear that the past couple years of political turmoil felt throughout the U.S. is a likely reason that they felt motivated to make their presence known.

Over the summer of 2020, Warren Wilson’s own Black Student Union (BSU) released a list of demands to WWC administration — and specifically President Lynn Morton — focused on the improvement of safety for Black students on campus, as well as the respect and recognition in academia that Black people deserve.

 Another event I have concluded to be a contributing event to the rise of the SoL is the conflict between an Indigenous student and a white professor in November of 2020. I have come to this conclusion because of a statement that was included in one of the SoL’s open letters to WWC administration, which was posted in late December: 

“This makes it all but impossible for anyone harboring even moderate views from having a functional social life on campus, or professors from effectively teaching without kowtowing the demands of an increasingly violent student body.” 

In my opinion, the above statement is a direct reaction to the event which occurred in November. I again believe that there is nothing violent nor wrongful about an Indigenous student suggesting more appropriate language when regarding Indigenous culture, especially considering that there are entire academic fields that are derived from white colonizers invading native lands and calling it “discovery” simply because it is the first time that white eyes have seen it. 

 

What do the SoL believe? 

Ironically, there is more of a contrast between the historical Sons of Liberty and those we find here on Warren Wilson campus. One student wrote in the comment section under a post showing the Sons of Liberty’s note that the original Sons of Liberty used to be advocates for the abolition of slavery, and that the current group and their response seems “outdated.” While this doesn’t guarantee that these men did not own slaves, or were not racist, it shows the contradiction between these ideologies. 

In their open letters to WWC administration, the SoL state that certain ideologies are being struck down by students and professors in class. (Similarly to how the Indigenous student was struck down by their professor for suggesting appropriate language?) 

One must ask the question: what is the SoL saying that is so overwhelmingly disapproved of? 

Another student who commented under the same photo said that they themself act as more of a devil’s advocate in class, and that “eyerolls and exacerbated expressions” are about the only resistance they receive to their contrary arguments. 

Here are two of the outrageous statements from their December letter: 

“Shockingly, students participate in the Jim Crow-esque segregation by denying participation in clubs, events, and in some cases denying facilities to others based on their color of skin or heritage.” 

“Warren Wilson currently has more in common with a Soviet re-education camp than a college.” 

To be quite frank, there is a massive difference between creating a safe space for a specific group of people who are largely marginalized and dismissed, than that of legal, de jure, intentionally harmful segregation. 

Sometimes there is a very necessary need for Black bodies and Black voices to express their feelings purely, without concern of how a white voice will interpret their feelings. Not everything needs to be interpreted by a white voice. But to compare that to the actual historical segregation, discrimination, and oppression, to being excluded from a club… is vile. To say that a liberal arts college which fosters learning and growth has more in common with actual historical concentration camps that existed to the detriment of people of color, than to a state university…  is vile. 

 

Why are the WWC SoL a threat?

This group exists purely to undermine the advances that BIPOC on campus are making to empower themselves and encourage their white peers to contribute positively to an atmosphere that is safe for everyone. It is not news that white people often assume that if they are included, that everyone else is included, because they have never been the “other.” 

They have made it obvious that they are right-wing or conservative through their identification of ideology which they disagree with. They use phrases such as “politically left” and “militant left,” which are widely used by right-wing participants of bipartisan politics. 

Another word that stands out to me in their letter, is the label of “heritage.” In the earlier quote, the SoL claims that students are discriminated against based on the color of their skin or their heritage. What this signifies to me, is whiteness. White people, especially from the south, are keen on identifying their past and ancestry as their heritage, perhaps as a way to mean that they too are more than just their race. 

When I mentioned the SoL at Warren Wilson to a high school teacher of mine, I told him that they anonymously posted letters around campus, to which he replied, “how very white supremacist of them!” Though these students have stated that they are not a white supremacist hate group, there are several factors that contribute to our perception of them as such. 

1. They are anonymous.

Much like the Ku Klux Klan, who hid their faces with infamous white hoods,and concealed their identity while intimidating those around them to align with their views, the SoL hide their identities while pushing a certain agenda. 

2. Quest for power.

Although the attempt is weak, their letter was posted and written directly to the WWC Board of Trustees and President Lynn Morton. This letter was also posted a month after most students migrated off-campus. This is a direct attempt to maneuver around the student body in secret, in order to make contact with the head decision makers of the school. 

3. Direct conflict with current trends.

Currently, Warren Wilson is making active efforts and deliberation to create a more dynamic and culturally inclusive atmosphere. To write a statement stating that the SoL would like to “return” to an environment of “learning” suggests that they disagree with these anti-racist goals. As a part of anti-racist goals in education, teachers are correct in striking down racist sentiments or ideas. It is everyone’s duty to hold each other accountable to a more appropriate and safer environment. If you are hurt by these actions, then it says more about who you are and how you think than the rest of the people around you. 

 

Conclusions:

Part of what the SoL may be feeling, is more of an accountability for what they say. Yes, free speech does exist in this country, and that is why you are allowed to write these letters, and why I am allowed to write this article. However, the first amendment right to free speech protects you from the government silencing you. Warren Wilson is a private institution, and they have their own reserved rights to limit certain voices. 

Actions have consequences. Better yet, actions create reactions. If you are worried about being “canceled,” then congratulations: this is your first experience with being a minority representation of a certain opinion. You are still allowed to think and feel however you do, but you cannot expect everyone to agree with you everywhere you go. Be grateful that no one is questioning your existence. I, as a bisexual non-binary individual, have people who tell me that my sexuality does not exist, and that my gender does not exist. When I, as a femme-aligned person, challenge another individual or a harmful opinion, I am called a bitch and a dumb woman. The Indigenous student who bravely challenged the colonizer language that is widely used in certain academic fields was removed from that very classroom for doing so. 

We have yet to know anything about who they are. What we do know is that this group claims to be diverse and claims to include students and staff. However, this could all be embellished, and it could just as likely be one single person. It is probable that they had access to campus when it was closed, since they posted their letter in late December. 

You may be faceless. You may be nameless. But, each time you release a statement, we will know more about you. Any writer knows that the language you choose says far more about you than most people notice at first glance.