Just before exams began in December, we gathered as a community to address the concerns, emotions, and ideas catalyzed both by the lack of indictments in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner as well as the death of Tamir Rice. Before we gathered, students and faculty had joined in and supported conversations led by some of our equity and identity clubs: Rethinking White, Folks, and the BSU.
Performers in our dance assembly also choreographed and dedicated a piece to those who had died in these tragic events. At the initiation of the MA Voice, many of us engaged in a four-and-a-half minute Step Out to honor Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin by stepping out of classrooms and offices into the hallway in silence. In the meantime, members of the history department and others were considering how they might contribute to a greater understanding of the events that occurred.
These discussions and performances were dynamic, passionate, and focused on how to deal with the issues raised not only as members of many different communities but also as individuals, some of whom see their lives at risk daily. Comments ranged from stories of personal incidents to metaphysical outrage. There was among our students a clear sense of injustice as well as a desire to understand how this could happen whether through the workings of the justice system or why the lives of African Americans were targeted more than whites, either unconsciously or consciously. I have never been more moved by our students’ willingness to grapple with complicated issues that necessarily inspire strong emotions and require careful thought. Their desire to understand injustice and to change it was inspiring.
There was a clear call for us to come together as a community in a non-political way, and students asked the administration and others to help guide them. In my comments at Assembly, I spoke to the nature of protest and the nature of resistance. Protest is an important American value, underscored by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution, it is a moment in time, and a voice heard. Resistance actively rejects an injustice, refuses to accept that injustice either in what we choose to speak about or in what we choose to be silent about. A culture of resistance values up-standers, creates allies, is reflective and willing to be uncomfortable. Race matters in our country, and MA strives to be a community where we can talk about race and privilege and a community that actively resists injustice based on race or any other socially significant difference and actively work towards a more just and equal world.
Below you will find our plan for the next two weeks. It is a beginning and an expression of who we have always been.