LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In response to myself

Why a conservative columnist regrets his words on race and interactions with the Vanderbilt community.

Kirkland+Hall+houses+a+large+portion+of+Vanderbilt%27s+administration.

Emily Gonçalves

Kirkland Hall houses a large portion of Vanderbilt's administration.

Matt Colleran, Former Columnist

Nearly three years ago, The Hustler afforded me an incredible platform and opportunity to write a column for the Vanderbilt community. Today, I apologize for failing to write the column I should have.

In my small group Bible study at church, we are currently reading a topical book called “Counter Culture” that talks about how Christians can engage in a world that falls so far short of the standard set by God. One way we fail to “counter” the prevailing culture is by, instead, “combating” it. Signs of combating culture include being aggressive and defensive, acting like you are trying to win an argument. On the other hand, countering culture is speaking lovingly, sharing truths not to win an argument but to “extend the love of Christ to a lost and dying world.” That includes sharing hard truths, but not in the way I was according to this profile in the Vanderbilt Political Review. The distinction between the two words may seem trivial, but it really is not. My column should have countered the culture by explaining my faith and values and how they impact the way I see issues facing our nation and the Vanderbilt campus.

Instead, I wrote a combative column where I was solely focused on winning arguments and scoring partisan political points.

While I still stand behind the majority of what I published, I deeply regret the general tone of my column and my interactions with the student body during my time at Vanderbilt.  Now that I am able to look back from a different environment, living in a conservative suburb of Nashville and having grown in my faith since graduation, I recognize that it was hard to be in an environment where so many people seemed to be waiting to disagree. But, that’s no excuse. I failed, and, for that, I am sorry.

That regret has been festering for at least a year, but it’s only after beginning this new Bible study that I have felt the ability to put the feeling into words.  The tone of my column is not what I feel most convicted to apologize for, though. Even more than the general tone of my column, I regret the content of one of my articles, titled “What the Left Gets Wrong on Race.” While I would still maintain the abortion argument and much of the economic points I presented, the crux of my argument was on the third point. I said that the left was being politically calculated in not accepting the post-racial America I thought existed—and that they were intentionally racist in doing so. 

With the senseless and appalling killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as hearing so much more about how race impacts everyday life for many people, it’s become painfully obvious to me that I was blind. I strongly support the peaceful protesters showing that Black lives do matter and that, while our nation has made a lot of progress, there is a long way still to go for racial justice. In the past, I was simply ignorant and did not mean to downplay the very real suffering that still exists in Black communities, and I now know that I must do better.  I thought it was enough that I was quick to disavow and call out white nationalists and the “alt-right,” because I thought racism in modern America could truly be described as “a few losers in their parents’ basements.”

I can never know what it feels like to be a Black man, but what I do know is that we are all perfectly made in the eyes of the Lord, and we must stand against any individual or society that allows racism to exist. As I humbly ask for your forgiveness, I share with you my prayer for unity and reconciliation in our nation, which can only come with dialogue and understanding.

 

God Bless you,

Matt Colleran, Vanderbilt Class of 2018