Discourse / Editorials / January 21, 2015

Thoughts from the embers: Demonstration a teaching moment

Do not let the demonstrations put in place by our fellow students fall on deaf ears. We were happy to see so many students step up and draw added attention to the racial shortcomings of Knox, but their effort will fade away if the spirit from the die-in is not carried through the community.

This week the administration had two events planned for MLK Day: the convocation address and a teach-in discussion for the afternoon. The group of 30 to 40 students that gathered in CFA lobby to stage the demonstration immediately after the MLK Convocation did so with purpose. Various students from the group addressed concerns with the treatment of minority students on campus, citing grievances from microaggressions to the defacing of informational boards in Seymour Union.

Many members of the community stayed after convocation for the duration of the protest. This editorial is not to serve as an indictment of those who left. It is a message urging those at the college not directly involved in the protest to keep the discussion alive – students and faculty alike.

Unfortunately, it is easier to isolate struggles, to compartmentalize them in the “not my problem” folder of our brains. We recognize that we too have to step up in this regard. What we are advocating for is an attempt to break that bind and carry our criticisms through to actual action.

Do not let your personal sense of comfort stand as testament to the supposition that everyone on this campus feels safe. The recent demonstrations are evidence that members of our community are not afforded this comfort. Acknowledging that these problems exist on campus is only the first step in the fight to erase them.

We encourage the community to take full advantage of this teaching moment. Listen to protesters, hear their concerns and what they would like to change about this campus. Internalize the information and most importantly give those who have experienced discrimination a chance to speak up.

For professors, this means taking a chunk out of your class time to talk about issues of racism on campus. Even if the class has very little they are comfortable sharing, it is crucial that an open dialogue is established. Students can do their part by dedicating a portion of their next club meeting to the discussion. As difficult as it might be, the community must be self-critical. Discussion and understanding must precede action and it is clear that action is needed.

The worst thing that could happen right now is for no one to listen. The end-of-year time crunch placed on the walkout initiative is not present with this round of demonstrations. To ignore these activists would negate any claims that their concerns have been heard. This is your time, Knox. Don’t let the community down.

Tags:  #BlackLivesMatter community demonstration listen MLK day protest

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