On September 25, members of Albion College’s Black Student Alliance, along with LGBriTs and the Organization for Latinx Awareness, held a demonstration at the foot of Baldwin Hall to protest what they have deemed violent and discriminatory events that have taken place on campus this school year.
Graffitied swastikas in bathroom stalls and multiple defacings of the Campus Rock have occurred within the first five weeks of Albion’s fall semester. On September 17, a Google Doc containing what the demonstrators call inflammatory and violent language towards Antifa protesters, liberals and minorities was circulated in the Albion College Conservatives email list by one of its members. The member’s name is being withheld for privacy and safety.
The College Conservatives President Nick Smith said that the document was quoted directly from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on white privilege and institutional racism for use in a weekly political discussion where both liberal and conservative viewpoints are presented. It in no way reflects the views of the club, he said.
According to Albion College President Mauri Ditzler, the College will investigate the document and the College Conservatives’ possible sanctioning and endorsement of it.
The demonstration was largely in reaction to this document and what demonstrators consider to be the College administration’s failing to react properly when discriminatory events occur.
[To learn full details of the Google Doc and the demonstration, click here.]
While the demonstration’s motivations were clear, the individual demonstrator’s feelings were not. These are some of their thoughts on the day’s event.
Mercedes Pace, junior, of Albion, Michigan
“I feel like I and other minority students are very frustrated with what’s going on and what’s not going on. I guess it’s time to take it into our own hands because this is kind of sparking a chain reaction. After this email got sent out, people have been yelling at black people, calling them n–ggers from their cars. So this is getting really big and nobody’s doing anything about it.”
“I hope that [passersby] realize that we’re people and we’re out here and we’re upset, and I honestly hope they grab signs and join us, too.”
Khalifaziz Birden, junior, of New Orleans; President, Black Student Alliance
“It’s like we’ve been chanting. ‘Respect existence or respect resistance.’ If you’re not gonna respect us, if you’re not gonna protect us, then this is what you got to deal with. You’ve got to deal with, what, 100 people blocking off Baldwin. Gotta deal with 100 people who aren’t in class. Gotta deal with 100 people realizing who their real friends are.”
“What people don’t realize is that when people are black on this campus, if you are queer on this campus, if you are undocumented on this campus, and life in general, you risk life every day. That is not a hyperbole.”
Isaac Verhelst, sophomore, of Troy, Michigan; Student Senator
“I don’t think the way that racist issues are handled are the best because they seem more retributive. The only way we’re going to be able to solve these issues is if we take a more restorative justice route.”
Dominick Quinney; ethnic studies professor
“I think it shows how students are truly feeling about this, about what’s been going on on campus. Not even just on campus, in our country. I think this is not a reaction, but it’s definitely what people have been thinking for some time, and now we’re seeing it really displayed and heard.”
Victoria Stewart, senior, of Southfield, Michigan
“Minority students deserve to take up as much space on this campus as [the College Conservatives] do. It’s not their campus, it’s all of our campus. We deserve to be safe on this campus.”
Mauri Ditzler; President, Albion College
“It’s good to see the support from so many faculty and staff and students at this rally. This is an important topic. It’s why liberal arts colleges exist. We exist to help students create community, and that’s needed in our society more than ever. Our country’s becoming increasingly polarized. We as a society don’t seem to have the ability to engage difficult conversations in a constructive and civil manner. We need to learn that first, on our college campuses, and then create leaders who are ready to go out and show society how to do this. This protest is an important part of that task.”
Jay Johnson, junior, of Chicago
“We’re not here to harm nobody. We’re not here to hurt nobody. We’re just here to be here, to be educated. We’re not here to cause problems. College is for change and for people to become their own individuals. It’s nothing toward hating nobody. People come to college to be themselves, to learn who they are.”
“People have been saying, like, ‘Oh, well, I never knew because I’ve never been educated about it!’ No, we’re out here trying to educate people and we’re trying to show that we’re here not going nowhere. We’re gonna stand tall instead of being quiet. ”
Photos one through five, seven by Beau Brockett Jr.
Photo six by Katie Boni