Yale Student Refuses to Apologize for So-Called Racist Invite Saying He Won’t ‘Indulge this Culture of Performative Denunciation’


Finally, there is someone unwilling to deliver an insincere apology just to maintain political correctness. Trent Colbert is a second-year Yale Law School student. He was accused of racism after writing a party invitation. When told to write an apology to make the matter go away, he refused and gave a detailed explanation for his unwillingness to comply.

According to the Daily Wire, the student invited fellow members of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) to a “Trap House.” This is a term that used to refer to a crack house but that has since been taken over by young people to mean party house.

After Colbert sent the letter, some students took a screenshot of the invitation and sent it to an online forum for second-year law students. Some students declared that the reference to “trap house” was a term to describe a blackface party.

It only took 12 more hours after the email was sent for two discrimination and harassment resource coordinators from Yale Law School’s Office of Student Affairs to schedule a meeting with Colbert. Ellen Cosgrove and Yaseen Eldik met with the Yale student and insisted that he apologize for the email to make the situation “go away.” Colbert recorded their conversation. The coordinators implied that his law school career would be in jeopardy if he did not apologize. They even indicated that his membership with the conservative Federalist Society was basically “triggering” for students. This is a decades-old legal group with members of the Supreme Court.

Cosgrove and Eldik even wrote the apology for Colbert to sign. He later posted the apology verbatim to Persuasion:

“Dear [Black Law Students Association] leaders,

I write to sincerely apologize to you for any harm, trauma, or upset my email caused. I had a conversation with Yaseen and Dean Cosgrove earlier and they helped to educate me on why my email was racially insensitive and classist. I had no idea that I was writing an email that was perpetuating harmful stereotypes or could even be interpreted as anti-Black. I dont want to cause any additional stress by writing this email, but I do want you to know that I am here if you would like to speak with me. I know I must learn more and grow. And I will actively educate myself so I can do better.”

Colbert flat out refused to sign the drafted letter, so the coordinators delivered an email to the second-year law school class condemning his invite “in the strongest possible terms.” They claimed his invite contained “pejorative and racist language.”

Colbert later wrote that he is not opposed to apologizing when an apology is necessary. He declared that “not every instance where an apology is demanded is one where it is actually warranted.”

The Yale student explained using this example. A student on the online forum said that his refusal to apologize was “corny.” He said that as a Native American, he might find that offensive because the student connected his actions with a crop that has immense cultural significance in indigenous communities. He then asked if the student should have to apologize just because Colbert demanded one? He stated an emphatic “no.”

He went further by stating that an apology should be a sincere expression of remorse and an admission of fault. Even the Yale administrators did not believe that Colbert had been racist when he used the phrase “trap house.” That did not matter to the coordinators. They urged him to placate the students with a public submission.

Colbert wrote, “I don’t believe that the now-common ritual of compelled apology, complete with promises to ‘grow’ and ‘do better’ (their words, but ones I’m sure you’ve seen many times before) helps anyone, or is even intended to. If we continue to indulge this culture of performative denunciation, the very idea of an apology will lose its meaning.”