One question that has been on many Williams students’ minds in the past few weeks is the grueling and ever-present system of white supremacy on the Williams College campus. A few students have expressed to me confusion over this claim, and I would like to use this article to attempt to explain the way the college’s administration perpetuates this system of white supremacy. Williams College security has gone out of its way to suppress and distort reports of white supremacists at Williams, but even through corrupt institutions such as Williams College Security and The Record, elements of the truth can shine through.
Elements of this deception can be witnessed in the Spring Street Blues section of the 4/23 edition of The Record:
“Tuesday 4-15-14: 3:36 a.m., Lehman: A student called Dispatch and reported that she woke up to find an unidentified male standing over her while she was sleeping. After speaking to the complainant, the male student that was in her room was identified and apprehended. The Director of Campus Safety and Dean of the College were notified.”
Although the link between this article and white supremacy may not seem self-evident, I will attempt to make it as clear as possible. I have no way to verify my claims about the truth behind this specific report. But as a former resident of Lehman Hall, I have experienced perils that bear an uncanny resemblance to this complaint. But what I saw in my room was no student, at least not one currently enrolled at Williams.
The fact is, there is a culture at Williams that no one wants to talk about, a group of individuals that no one wants to acknowledge, operating in near secrecy. This is a group that venerates a culture of white supremacy that has no place at Williams. I have feared speaking out about it for a long time, but in light of recent courageous voices, I too will no longer be silenced. This campus is haunted by its unsavory past as bastion of oppression and white supremacy in a very literal sense. Yes my classmates, I am speaking of ghosts.
As a junior living in the small box that is Lehman 101B, I would frequently get visits in the night from a variety of lost souls, former residents of the room whose journeys after death brought them back to Williams. Oliver Lawrence ’62 was the first spirit to make his presence known to me. On a particularly cold night during dead week, I awoke to see a dark silhouette of a human figure outlined on my ceiling. A gap in darkness appeared in the silhouette’s head. A noise resembling a rustling bush filled the room, getting sharper and clearer until it coalesced into what I could almost describe as a human voice. I hesitate to fully commit to that description, as what I heard was far from human, but my brain identified words nestled deep in this rusting, so I quickly identified it as something attempting to communicate. I was willing to suspend my doubts and engage with this apparition as if it truly was an individual speaking to me.
“What?” I responded to the murmurs.
“This room is awfully messy.”
“This used to be my room. There isn’t space for you to be messy.”
“What are- What do you want?”
“I’m Oliver. I used to live here. I wanted to see it again.”
“Why? This room isn’t that great.”
“Regardless, I had to see it. Also, I am a white supremacist ghost here to haunt you.”
The common room door slammed. I blinked and the apparition had vanished. The next day, I could not think of anything but this experience. I skipped class to pour through old dorm records. The only Oliver who had ever lived in Lehman 101B was Oliver Lawrence ’62. His phone number was in the alumni directory. I hesitated. Should I really call this guy? The image of the dark silhouette would not leave my mind. It was as if my own shadow had been projected on the ceiling, but more amorphous, more twisted. I needed to prove to myself that this was just a dream.
I dialed the number.
“Hi, may I speak with Mr. Oliver Lawrence?”
I heard a muffled gasp through the receiver.
“I’m sorry, but my father passed away in an accident last night. What did you want to talk to him about?” Oliver’s son’s voice was weak. He was barely able to complete this sentence. In a panic, I hung up the phone. While this told me little about the truth behind my vision, it was certainly supportive of a truth that I did not want to believe, no, a truth that I could not believe.
I had to know more. An online search for “Oliver Lawrence” yielded a series of breaking news articles. It seemed that they had yet to converge on the same story.
“Ohio Men Killed in Fiery Blaze”
“3 Dead in Akron after Losing Control of Winter Bonfire”
“KKK Cross Burning Gone Wrong, Several Dead and Injured”
I clicked the third article:
“A fire at a gathering of the Klu Klux Klan in southeast Akron has left 3 men dead and 4 others in critical condition.
The fire was started as an act of vandalism, burnt in the shape of a cross into the front lawn of a local community member.
Peter Hinckley of the Akron Police Department spotted the gathering and blaze while on a patrol of the area and pulled over to investigate.
‘As soon as the individuals saw me, they started running in the opposite direction. In their haste, they passed through the flames, lighting their robes on fire. The seven individuals were soon unable to continue fleeing, and they fell over onto the ground,’ Hinckley told our reporter.
The seven men were rushed to Akron General Medical Center, where they were treated for third degree burns. Three of the men died at the hospital. The other four continue to be treated.
One of the dead has been identified as 63-year-old Oliver Lawrence of Uniontown. The identities of the six other men remain under investigation.”
The phone call deepened my suspicions. This article confirmed them. How could I have known that this man was dead and a white supremacist? How could I have known, if I had not truly seen a ghost? I became convinced, but I had nothing to do with this information. Who could I tell? Who would believe me? So I remained silent.
In the following weeks I had a series of similar spectral encounters. All of these spirits claimed to have resided in Lehman 101B at some point. Many of our conversations lasted hours, discussing a variety of topics. All of the conversations inevitably ended with some sort of cartoonish open bigotry or a simple declaration of white supremacy. Interestingly, many of these spirits were not recently departed, but instead had been dead for quite a while. The last visitor I had was Martin Johnson ’30, the first resident of Lehman 101B. After he graduated, Martin had moved to Germany, where he joined the Nazi party and eventually died fighting early on in WW2. He seemed very surprised that I was unable to speak German, as he was not aware of the outcome of the war. At this point I was tired of being called a “dirty Jew” by ghosts, so I finally broke down and called security, saying that there had been an invader in my room. Of course, the spirit vanished while I made the call.
In a few minutes an officer arrived. I told him that someone had been in my room claiming to be an old Williams alum, and had suddenly disappeared. The officer said he would get a few officers to investigate the premises, but I could return to bed. Not knowing what else to do, I went back into my room and shut the door. I overheard the officer talking to the dispatcher on his radio.
“Dispatch, we have a problem in Lehman Hall.”
“We are having… that problem again.”
“You know the drill. We can take care of it.”
The officer then exited my common room. I do not know what security did, but Martin Johnson ’30 was the last ghost I ever saw in that room. Every time I try to inquire about what happened in this incident, they claim to have no records of the incident or even my call to security. This is clearly a flagrant attempt by the administration to deceive its students about the serious spectral infestation problem that this campus has. Why the ghosts of white supremacist alums continue to return to campus, I cannot say. However, I have spoken about this issue to many of my peers in private, and thus I am confident that I am not alone in my experiences with white supremacist ghosts.
In the past few weeks I have been very impressed with my peers who have begun to speak out about white supremacy at Williams. It takes a lot of courage to bring this issue to light on a campus where such voices are too easily marginalized. But these voices are still afraid, afraid of being silenced by the administration for revealing the source and nature of the white supremacy at Williams. But I will be silent no longer. I demand that the administration ends their policy of denial when it comes to spectral presences at Williams. The pain that this policy brings to students is tangible, unlike the spirits that crowd the campus. Until this ugly truth about Williams is acknowledged and addressed by the administration, students will continue to append their time here living in fear.