At this point, I doubt there are many students on campus who are completely unaware of the non-indictment grand jury rulings in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve attended most of the events and demonstrations on campus (which have largely surrounded Ferguson) as a way of expressing my disgust and sadness with the grand juries’ rulings. Most of the participants in these events have been students of color, with a disappointing lack of white student allies.
As a white student on campus who considers herself dedicated to social justice, I am calling out the countless other students who identify in this same way and yet have remained largely silent on this issue through their absence. Recognizing that all students will not fall on the same side of this issue, I’m calling out those students in particular who have chosen not to publicly state their conscious disagreement with the rulings and those who have continued to claim that they “just don’t know enough about it” to do something. Where have you been when students have come together to challenge these miscarriages of justice? Why haven’t you done the research to “know enough about it?”
Your silence is an indication of your indifference and it degrades your professed commitment to Boston College’s social justice mission.
BC touts that 80 percent of students (a large portion of whom are white given that BC is a predominantly white institution) will participate in service during their four years here. Much of the service we do at BC takes place in communities who are faced with racial injustices and police brutality on a daily basis.
The truth is that perception is reality. No matter how much service you do, in not showing up, you’re allowing people’s misperceptions to inform their realities. Over Thanksgiving dinner, your families may have been either actively aligned with or indifferent to the Ferguson ruling. Many of your friends may not be talking about Ferguson at all or have chosen to focus on the looters or the fact that Brown stole some cigarillos from a convenience store before being shot dead. Class discussions surrounding Ferguson may have been dispassionate and lacking in the hard facts of the case. You’re active disagreement could make the difference in defining the dominant narrative on these issues.
Working for social justice is about being in solidarity with individuals when it’s easy and when it’s hard. It’s about service and it’s about activism. It’s about being an ally on campus and in the community even when you’re not the one running things.
Martin Luther King reminds us that, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
In your heart and mind you may be on the right side of history, but in keeping your silence you fail to challenge those who see the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner as just and you communicate to people who truly have a stake in these issues that they’re fighting these battles alone.
At the next big event, I look forward to seeing you there.
Featured Image by Arthur Ballin / Heights Staff