By Kevin Hornibrook
If you have the time to read an op-ed written by a white man on racial inequality in America and at the College, you certainly have the time to listen to the experiences of those who are hurting, sign petitions and, if you have the means, donate to make a meaningful contribution to the movement.
Recent events have once again erupted the country into a state of frenzy, and reignited the discourse regarding the oppression of Black Americans. This time is unique, coming in the midst of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic and under a president whose official statements are censored for promoting violence.
People with authority are not shying away from violence — from President Trump’s callback to the 1960s with “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to mayors and governors allowing police forces to exercise gross displays of strength. But this piece isn’t about telling you the news: it’s about learning what we all can do. Perhaps looking at the entire country is too broad to be productive, so let’s get a little more local.
Philadelphia, New York City and Portland, Oregon, have been host to some of the largest and most dangerous protests in the nation. Marching has become dangerous. People take videos from their cars of cops chasing down and beating citizens. A clip from Philadelphia of protestors being tear-gassed with no escape went viral on Twitter. Crowds protesting police brutality are being met with police brutality. The violence that erupts is caused by those that are there to “serve and protect.”
In the midst of all the violence, some mild silver-linings have emerged — like calls within the government to decrease the NYPD’s $5.6 billion budget, or the removal of a reactionary monument known as the Frank Rizzo statue — but those are all long overdue. Change was needed years ago, and the cities don’t seem to have much of a good plan for changing the future. But what are you, one single person, going to do to help a whole region?
Fixing an entire city is a daunting task, so let’s narrow the scope a little more. There is an undeniable racism problem at the College. Even President Kathryn Foster, in her interview with The Signal, acknowledged that there is an issue of racial inequity at the College. A quick search on social media taught me about the TCNJ Snapchat account appropriating gang culture back in 2017. A professor made light of police brutality to a Black student. A Latina student was spit on and called racial slurs on the way to her car on campus. That’s only what people were comfortable enough to tweet about.
In 2018, there was a story that gained campus-wide attention about freshmen shouting the n-word repeatedly at a Black student and his fraternity brothers from their room in Wolfe Hall. Anonymous Instagram accounts have emerged, giving a voice to those who have experienced countless incidents of racism and discrimination on cmapus. These aggressions against minority students are obviously not isolated incidents, but rather a symptom of the culture at our school. Minority students should not have to feel unsafe or unwelcomed on campus — not in 2020, not before 2020 and not in the future.
Realistically speaking, what has been done to fix this? Administration will send out emails stating what is largely already known; student organizations might post to social media in the name of solidarity; you may be frequently reminded that the newly created Division of Equity and Inclusion is working on campus; but none of that is the answer. None of that can get to the root of the problem.
If something helps but does not fix an issue, it is a first step, but not the answer. I’m not qualified to define what the answer is, but I do not accept the status quo as enough. Speaking to white people in particular: never expect injustice that you are not experiencing to eventually be sorted out. Our role is incredibly important in eliminating racism across the country. To sit back is to allow change to come in the form of another disenfranchised student, another Black child railroaded into the prison system, another Black man or woman murdered by police.
Finally, the environment you have the most control over is yourself. If you are white and find yourself using racial slurs to be “edgy,” or slipping them in while singing at parties as an excuse to say them, it isn’t hard to stop.
If you hear “Black lives matter” and your mind immediately responds with “all lives” or “blue lives,” it isn’t hard to spend a few more seconds thinking about the context of those two statements. It isn’t hard to listen to your Black peers, friends or family — really, all you need to do is listen — to learn about their experiences and how to be a better ally in the future.
You do not have to be ignorant forever. For everyone protesting, donating and organizing: never stop. Getting municipalities to reform their police training is good, but it is not enough. Voting out those that endorse a militarized police force and are quick to dismiss the concerns of Black citizens is good, but it is still not enough. The four cops involved in George Floyd’s murder were not charged because people voted in the right people to charge them — they were charged because of the loud demands made by mass protesting throughout the nation. Always push a better agenda than the one we live in.
What can you do now? Add your name to the list of those looking for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless more innocent Black people that have been murdered by police. Donate to community bail funds to keep peaceful protestors out of jail. Donate to the GoFundMe pages for the victims’ families. There is so much you can do that is more helpful than reading this piece, so please do that — contribute.
Now that you’re at the end of this piece, please go reread the first paragraph.