See the Stripes screenshot for letter to the editor

The "See the Stripes" movement began when A.D. Carson, one of the Clemson Five, published a video of the same name.

"Brothers or Fools"

The most conspicuous fact of life around the Clemson campus has to do with racial separation.  The existence of past prejudice is painfully evident in the history of the state, county and university.  Had South Carolina persisted in its beliefs, the arguments of the “See the Stripes” group, and their faculty supporters, would have some credibility.

That didn’t happen, and as a result they have none.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s moral encouragement to, “take the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” resulted in the Clemson Board of Trustees integrating the university in the face of widespread public opposition.  Events tumbled in a host of improvements, the latest being that South Carolina became the first southern state since Reconstruction to elect an African-American to the office of U.S. Senator. 

You won’t find mention of that, or many other things, in the proposed “See the Stripes” curriculum because it isn’t interested in facts that run opposite to an ideology.  Instead the individuals involved want power over many things, including the curriculum, admission, buildings, hiring practices and the atmosphere on campus. 

 The main difference between the “See the Stripes” beliefs and Martin Luther King, Jr. is that the latter had a moral premise for his actions, “…it was not a doctrine that made this offence yearn for revenge,” he wrote, “but one that asked for change.”  The only pastor to have a national holiday named after him emphasized forgiveness, not retribution.

                        Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.

                        Hatred confuses life: love humanizes it.

                        Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

As a scholar who has taught Southern Politics for years on the Clemson campus, and has a book in the field, I find the curriculum of the “See the Stripes” people to be: shallow, narrow, uninformed as to historical events and unworthy of scholarly consideration.  I know of no journal in the field that would even consider it for publication or distribution.

Yet, the “See the Stripes” curriculum is on the verge of becoming a required course at Clemson.  If that happens, we should change the name of this place from “University” to “Indoctrination Center.”  The administration has an uneven hand when it comes to student conduct on campus, sending out five emails about an embarrassing display after the Saturday football game, and then suddenly dropping that matter and turning on a student for posts on the internet.    

The “See the Stripes” group is fixed on revenge, on embarrassing the university and they have little or nothing to fear from the administration.  Meanwhile, the rest of the campus is persecuted by their antics, which have virtually no intellectual or scholarly merit.  Their words and actions have none of the markings Martin Luther King, Jr. had when he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish as fools.”  We’re perishing, and the ghosts of 1,500 students who decided not to attend the University of Missouri next fall in reaction to the antics of the faculty are watching to see what Clemson does.   

J. David Woodard

Professor of Political Science

(14) comments


I am not fond of political science ever as I am always less interested in such kind of dry subjects and political matters. There is an essay on that is actually in a series form and I love to read each of the series.


As a previous comment stated: "students value comfort and security over genuine diversity of ideas and freedom of speech". I also want to thank Woodard for posting such an insightful piece. It's hilarious that those who are constantly defensive of their opinions are also the ones who care so little for the opinions of others.

As a student of Dr. Woodard, I know that he has many stories of participating in the Civil Rights Movement. He has told stories of being prepared to protect black females at peaceful protests against racist attackers. Woodard simply realizes the difference between the grievances of "See the Stripes" and the true racism that the South once experienced. He witnessed it, and he fought against it. He is simply refusing to validate the regime of "See the Stripes", and favors education and genuine freedom over indoctrination. He is the voice of many, and unfortunately he will be labeled a bigot for exercising his right to free expression.


What makes "racism" less true now? It's either racism or it's not. Are you saying that if people aren't in danger of physical harm or being blatantly discriminated against, it's not "true"? Who is responsible for the definition of whether it is "true"?


By true I mean institutional, and I don't mean to imply that there aren't valid incidents of racism today. But Dr. Woodard is pointing out that this campaign is trying to force the administration to cater to those who are fighting against free speech. It's about the silencing of any opposition to the liberal media narrative.


I spent time viewing videos of dialog among the protesters (early on when they were working on how to communicate with the administration), between protesters and Clements, between the protesters and Jacks, and the forum sessions. I also went to Sikes and talked with some of the leaders. My observation is that this protest is first and foremost about human decency. One of the protesters during the early dialog session said, "why can't people just be civil?" Good question. How does expecting the social norm at Clemson to be, "let's be decent to others in our community" become an infringement on freedom of speech? In a family, if there is a conflict, often counseling focuses on learning how to communicate with eachother in a more respectful manner. No one is saying you can't state your ideas. Ideas are great. Bullying and hate is not, and it is unproductive and harmful within a community. I believe that the idea of the Clemson Family is the idea that we treat the members of our community with respect, even if we have differences, we are all in this learning process together. Freedom of speech is great, but it doesn't mean you should say ugly, hateful things just to say ugly, hateful things and make someone feel bad or threatened, just so you can feel better about yourself. Freedom of speech is about being able to share your ideas and state your opinion.


Dr. Woodard,

From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for having the courage to post this wise and timely commentary that applies not just to our own beloved campus, but to many other universities across our great nation. We live in an age where students value comfort and security over genuine diversity of ideas and freedom of speech. My greatest fear is for the day that we take the prattle of these social justice fanatics seriously enough to actually implement their ideas—I speak of the rabble like those at UC Berkeley who refused to read Plato, Hobbes, and Mill because their ideas were rooted in “white patriarchy” and a more diverse curriculum was needed to make a more “equal” playing field. Revenge and resentment dwell deep within their heart and it is from that point this fools quest begins that would see rampant unchecked egalitarianism level all obstacles and monuments of distinction until everyone else is reduced to their lowest vulgar base right alongside them—“No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

You are no doubt familiar with Jonathan Swift’s timeless proverb, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” I would ask that you remember it and keep it close to mind as the rabble continue to wail and gash their teeth in the comments as a response to your message. Professors like you are what have made my experience at Clemson University an irreplaceable experience that I cherish and will take with me after graduation as I transition into law school. You and your colleagues who act in turn are the final bulwark against the manner of tyranny that De Tocqueville warned of in Democracy in America, “You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but you are henceforth a stranger among your people.” We must all do our part to continue to fight and ensure American universities remain a marketplace of TRUE diversity and freedom of ideas.

"Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. Their effects are known well enough: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic -- every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization." —Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols.

Elrick RCID

This is an unprofessional response to a movement with larger, more wide-spread, and more current roots in discussions of race and this country than that of an out-dated crutch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, re-tooled through the lens of a white male conservative's ideological perspective. This is not the response of someone who is of the profession of Political Science; this is an opinion clothed in self righteousness. This commentary targets a speculated ethos of a hypothetical opponent rather than opens discussion of a larger topic on race, political movements, student involvement and historical relation, especially in the South. That is what this student movement did; it opened up a resource of this discussion, as well as a community on Sikes' steps and support to the protest that in itself is a fascinating phenomenon. This event captured not only the imagination, but a microcosm of the current political climate on not only race, but millenials, college students, interactions between small communities and colleges, as well as how institutions deal with race and white privilege. However, what this moment in time proved, more than this snide opinion, was that the topic is larger than the blindness of those still shackled to outdated views from the silos, and gains more from those who actively engage in academic investigation and democratic deliberation.

Eric Stephens

Dr. Woodard,

I, too, reject your letter, which exudes white male privilege. Here are 20 examples:

1) The belief that South Carolina’s prejudice is in the past? It is not. Bananas hung from banners honoring African American history. People yelling the N-word to a group of peaceful protestors. A conversation in a hallway between two white girls discussing why they were afraid to go to Sikes Hall despite the peaceful nature of black bodies gathering. South Carolina’s prejudice still thrives.

2) The belief that you can cherry-pick and appropriate Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes for your benefit, ignoring the radical, less white-friendly ones. For example: “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.” –Where Do We Go from Here, 1967

3) The belief that being “the first southern state since Reconstruction to elect an African-American to the office of U.S. Senator” somehow undoes contemporary racism.

4) The belief that “See the Stripes” is, or claims to be, some kind of curriculum.

5) The belief that you can, in fact, understand the fundamental tenants of “See the Stripes,” its inherent connection to Martin Luther King, Jr., and what it feels like be a person of color when you are a white privileged male.

6) The belief that another person’s pain, anger, and frustration is somehow “revenge,” which may say more about your feelings of guilt than anything else.

7) The belief that the onus of forgiveness is on people of color to seek it from you and not for you to seek it from them.

8) The belief a gathering of black bodies is somehow hatred and not love.

9) The belief that being “a [white male] scholar who has taught Southern Politics for years on the Clemson campus, and has a book in the field” somehow means you can understand and dismiss the pain, anger, and frustration of under-represented groups.

10) The belief that protesters care that you think their movement is “shallow, narrow, [and] uninformed.”

11) The belief that as a white privileged male you can make such a judgement in the first place.

12) The belief that a movement must be worthy of scholarly consideration. I wonder how many of the things you study as “a scholar who has taught Southern Politics for years on the Clemson campus, and has a book in the field” were once considered “shallow, narrow, uninformed as to historical events and unworthy of scholarly consideration” by other white privileged males.

13) The belief that publication in a journal is somehow considered more worthy than a YouTube video calling for change.

14) The belief that a publication in a journal can be more influential than a YouTube video made by a black student.

15) The belief that an antiracist and diversity promoting curriculum being required at a major university is not a good thing.

16) The belief that the way you teach at the university is somehow not indoctrination of the white privileged male variety.

17) The belief that the actions took by the administration to locate and detain another white privileged male who made explicit threats of shooting and lynching protesters is something to be condemned.

18) The belief that drawing attention to the administration’s inadequate response to grievances from under-represented students is somehow embarrassing.

19) The belief that a peaceful gathering of black bodies is somehow persecution against you.

20) The belief that listening to black voices means you are perishing.

Unfortunately, Dr. Woodard, your letter to the editor has virtually no intellectual or scholarly merit. Your words and actions have none of the markings Martin Luther King, Jr. had when he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish as fools.”

Let those words sink in. Are you upset with them? Are you upset because there are portions of history left out of a narrative? Are you upset because facts are left out of a narrative in order to support a certain ideology? Are you upset because a small group of people want to have power over many things like curriculum, admission, buildings, hiring practices, and the atmosphere on campus? Are you upset because you are feeling persecuted?

If you, you just missed the opportunity to voice your concerns and frustrations along side many students, faculty, staff, and community members who share those concerns and frustrations. It was the #SikesSitIn. Hopefully you won’t need to sit and sleep on the steps of the administration building for nine days or be arrested to let your voice be heard.

I wonder, though, if your letter could have been prevented if you had some diversity training that actually addressed white privilege. Either way, from one white privileged male to another, I offer you an invaluable piece of advice that was reinforced for me again as I sat on the steps of Sikes Hall—educate yourself.

Eric James Stephens
First Year PhD Student


I think your approach to this is rather anti-intellectual. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Dr. Woodard, the statement you make in saying that his letter "has virtually no intellectual or scholarly merit" is almost comical to read. If you were actually interested in the pursuit of knowledge and intelligent interaction with those of an opposing view, you would not bring them down with personal attacks on the their academic merit. If you actually regard all of us as equals, you will support Dr. Woodard's right to have an opposing view that is equally as educated as your own.

In the following paragraph, you continue in mocking one who has merely stated his viewpoint, and from it I personally don't feel like you have provided any evidence at all against Dr. Woodard. The sort of rhetoric in your statements adds nothing to the conversation. Instead it just makes it seems as if you are the one upset by reading an opposing viewpoint.

I will not bother to address your individual points, but know that I do respect your ability to have them, even if I disagree. I will consider them intellectual. But your statements that are simply ad hominem attacks on an opposing view point are completely unnecessary. If you really do value intellect and academic discussion, you will recognize that Dr. Woodard's point of view is equally as valid as your own. Otherwise, all you've done is attempt to silence the views that go against your own, and if anything that may be the most anti-intellectual action of all.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Eric Stephens

Thanks for the response. I hope you read the editorial and my letter side-by-side. I agree with you that those responses were simply ad hominem attacks--it was sort of the point. Each one was a direct quote from the author redirected to the author. Irony, no?


Sadly sir, your degrees and your books account for nothing when you choose to turn a blind eye on the racism and discrimination that is present, still to this day, on your own campus. I am astounded and dumbfounded that someone with accolades such as yourself can be so blind. It disappoints me to know that you are still teaching and preaching such thoughts. For you to claim that somehow South Carolina should be praised for being the first to integrate, shows that you are forgetting the history and how sentiments from that time still carry today. I shall harbor no hate towards you, but pray that your eyes are opened and that one day you can see the stripes.

-A Chicano That Can See


Did Dr. Woodard take time to visit the Sikes Sit In members and talk with them? Did he attend any of the forums? Does he also think the racist postings on yik yak and elsewhere are insignificant?


The Latin word for teach is 'doctrina,' so it should not phase us in the least to become an Indoctrination Center were it not for the pejorative meaning with which you have imbued your diatribe against those who initiated and support the See the Stripes movement. It is not a curriculum, however, and your re-description of its purpose is more telling about what is at stake in your uninformed and morally bankrupt "letter." The question of what is at stake for you in writing such a rhetorically debilitating opinion piece really begs the question of questioning itself. You seem disinterested in a dialogue, which is a foundation of the See the Stripes movement, rather you attempt to "school" those of us in the faculty and student body who must be ignorant to the 'real' meanings in Martin Luther King, Jr's messages, who must be fools to want a safer, more equitable, more diverse climate at Clemson. I reject your 'schooling' of me, Dr. Woodard. Flat. out. reject it. -- Cynthia Haynes, Associate Professor of English, Director of First-Year Composition (PhD in Humanities - Rhetoric and Critical Theory)


"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.'" - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is a shame that a man who so clearly prides himself on his academic work would question the credibility of his peers working in the field of ethnic studies. They have their doctorates too, Dr. Woodard, and their opinions are shaped by their educations and the work that they do at Clemson. They are clearly knowledgeable about the racist acts that have occurred at Clemson surrounding See The Stripes' work, namely the incident reported by the Tiger only a few days ago, when a student was arrested for making racist threats over Yik Yak. What, then, makes their opinion on these incidents any less valid or credible than yours?

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