On Wednesday night, during the Lowell Humanities Series Talk given by Ta-Nehisi Coates, members of Eradicate Boston College Racism stood up in solidarity with students who cannot voice their opinions on racial issues on campus. The members had their mouths covered with duct tape, and held paper signs that read “Thank You Ta-Nehisi Coates,” “Eradicate,” and “#BostonCollegeRacism.” Cedrick-Michael Simmons, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology, approached the podium in Gasson 100 during the Q&A session and gave a long speech in which he explained the symbolic purpose of Eradicate Boston College Racism’s actions.
A successful, peaceful protest is one in which disapproval with an issue or topic is clearly articulated—the students’ protest was impressively thought out and handled in a brave manner that also reflected serious planning and coordination. Coates is one of the most prominent writers of today, and his speech at BC represents an appropriate event for the protest to be given at—one that reached the most people and had the biggest impact on students and administrators.
The University secured an enormously popular and influential speaker on United States race relations in the middle of his rise into national consciousness. His coming to BC was an enormous sign of progress at the University, but to attack institutional racism, we must look beyond external voices and direct our attention inward—as the protesters did Wednesday night.
Yes, creating the physical forum with the right speaker needed to engage students in substantial discourse was carried out with the latest iteration in the Lowell Talk—the students showed up in such mass that over 500 had to be turned away—but racial disparity cannot be eradicated by programming alone. It is half the battle. The other half is actively changing policy: addressing racial homogeneity in the school’s faculty, more consistently engaging students on issues of race, and ending free speech restrictions that target groups who stand up to the status quo.
Although Eradicate Boston College Racism made a noteworthy impact on the event, the memory of Coates’ talk should not be the protest alone, but Coates’ message, expressly delivered to an institution often characterized by its racial and economic disparities. He pointed out, with the closing of the Q&A session, that there needs to be a consciousness of racism, and not as an attempt to relieve guilt. Only with a personal sense of injustice, a desire to actually feel and understand the same pain, can a place of power and change be created. BC should take this message to heart.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Staff