The summer of 2020 saw a burst of protests, beginning in the United States and circling around the world. The killings of Ahmad Arbrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd instigated a wave of upset across the world. The death of these three Black people, in culmination with many other violent police altercations in the Black community, sent people flooding the streets and social media platforms with their words and actions of protest.
Mainstream media, namely social media platforms like Twitter and news outlets like CNN and Fox, were pushing out countless articles every day covering the ways the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement was shaking the streets for change. The movement fueled creativity as pieces of literature, videos, photography and artwork forced conversations about the systemic racism of this country almost around the clock.
Despite the changes these conversations seemed to be leading to, Albion students have noted a lack of change on campus after a myriad of protests this summer.
“These people who it is not affecting can just go about their daily lives and not have to think about it. They have a choice,” said Layla Wilks, a senior from Chicago. “I haven’t had anybody speak to me about it or even mention it at all, and it’s like people have hit the reset button and went back to their regular lives.”
Returning to campus, some students even feel that campus is less of a safe space than it was prior to the events of the summer. Before the pandemic, students with strong political views weren’t as vocal. Now, in the wake of a summer full of political discussions, they are. As a result, for many Black and Brown students, there was less anxiety on campus last semester than there is now.
“I noticed now I get a lot of weird stares from campo and town people, and it’s a lot of people I’ve seen displaying their public support for Trump, too,” said Kai Bratton, a junior from Chicago. “With elections coming up, me and the rest of my friends who are Black and Brown, are anticipating the worst, especially since I’ve been here for three years and have witnessed racial incidents throughout being in Albion.”
Student voices point to the idea that painting the rock, emails of solidarity and calls to action are not enough to create beneficial change for Black and Brown students, students like myself.
Months in quarantine reading articles about BLM and constant outcries of those involved in the BLM movement provided the opportunity to change the way students interact with each other on campus, but student voices insinuate that it wasn’t enough. This lack of social change sends a message to BIPOC that says, “We don’t care.”
Student success is a priority on campus, and in order to keep student success inclusive, change has to happen. In order for change to happen we have to start with uncomfortable conversations.
What you can do
Having these uncomfortable conversations means recognizing it is not the job of BIPOC to educate non-BIPOC about how the system has been built against us, but when we do, you have to listen. BIPOC are always having these conversations, so take the time to tune in when they are happening. It is not our job to educate the school we were invited to attend on how to make sure we feel included and safe.
There are organizations on campus like Black Student Alliance, Organization for Latinx Awareness and Asian Awareness Group that take on the responsibility of creating inclusiveness, and their events should be attended as a simple act of solidarity. They should be amplified when they speak out on the exclusiveness of this campus. Start the uncomfortable conversations with your friends on how you can make that happen.
Talk to someone you don’t know and get to know them better. If you notice their background doesn’t mesh with yours, ask some non-invasive questions that will give you the opportunity to step into their shoes. For example, ask them if it’s okay to ask about where they are from and what it’s like as a student here versus wherever they are from.
During the conversation, make sure to check the privilege that you have. Always think to yourself why you have that privilege and not the person you are talking to. Think of some ways you can identify the flaws within the system in creating this gap between the two of you and how you can take action against it.