An open letter of hope to black students at University of Missouri

This letter was written by the leaders of the historically black sororities and fraternities at Davidson College as part of a nationwide action to show support for our fellow Black peers at University of Missouri.

We, student leaders of historically black organizations at Davidson College, stand in solidarity with the Black community at the University of Missouri. We heard your stories and we empathize with your pain. Most importantly, we applaud your composure, faith and resilience in the face of racism, oppression, and threats against your lives.

We know that #ConcernedStudent1950 began weeks ago in efforts to shed light on the university’s failure to provide a safe space and home for you. As students of color, we cannot condone microaggressions, lack of representation, and death threats of Black lives that have taken place at your school. As human beings, we cannot condone the violence that dehumanizes your existence. Even though we are miles away, we are your community and we resonate with you.

We understand your struggle. We know the awkward glances from your peers. The sidebar comments from people against our rallies. The constant fear that there’s always more at stake because of your complexion. The debilitating fear that comes from threats issued on anonymous social media apps, because those threats could have been issued by anyone in our community. The fear that takes away our time and efforts to study. Standing in solidarity with you is not just a moment of unity, but a call to action to actually take a stand. Our efforts may be long and the battle may be rough, but we are conscious that without struggle there is no progress. We will spark the flame that lights our future.

Initiated by the Tau Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the students of color and allies on campus organized a demonstration on November 12, 2015. Our organizations played an active role to show our support for your cause and bring attention to it at Davidson. At the demonstration, we stood with locked arms in solidarity by the flagpole outside the campus’ primary academic building to sing, chant, and share testimonials of our personal experiences with racism at our predominantly white institution. To see successful students of color deal with many of the very issues we have all long-fought is disheartening, but students like yourselves who fight back are an inspiration to us all.

So, now that we have put down our bull horn, unlocked OUR arms, and left the flagpole, one question still hangs above us: what do we do next? The protest held at Davidson, as well as the protests held at campuses across the country, have exposed a deep rift between students of color/allies and the remainder of our communities. The tedious and often bitter debates that bubble to the surface on our social media, at our lunch tables, and maybe even in our classrooms flare up and then fizzle out following moments of urgent activism such as the one you saw last week. After some time, perhaps, we get social justice fatigue on both fronts. Students of color and their allies feel as though they are shouting into a cavernous vacuum where their ideas, thought processes, and experiences are invalidated at every turn. Eventually we tire of screaming our lives are the primary sources that substantiate the academic claims made for systemic racism and the debilitating effects of racial microaggressions. Those who feel adamantly that the protests are unnecessary hide behind anonymous social media apps out of the fear they will be labeled racist.

But in order for us to even begin to heal the rift, we cannot give in to that fatigue. We challenge students of color and allies to keep talking and demonstrating and asserting our humanity. And, perhaps most importantly, we challenge those who would oppose us to lean into the discomfort. Be willing to actively engage. For those who don’t agree with actions taken, say so. Change starts with a discussion, and we must be willing to do the work to have it.

To the Black students at University of Missouri, thank you for challenging campuses all across the nation to participate in this critical movement. Thank you for your activism and we stand in solidarity with you in propelling this movement forward.

Sincerely, Mahlek Pothemont Amani Carter Se’Vaughn Carter Shuyu Cao

Mahlek Pothemont `16 is an Anthropology major from Charlotte, North Carolina. Contact him at mapothemont@davidson.edu

Amani Carter `16 is a History and Sociology double major from Bear, Delaware. Contact her at amcarter@davidson.edu

Se’Vaughn Carter `16 is a Physics major from Waldorf, Maryland. Contact him at secarter@davidson.edu

Shuyu Cao `16 is an English major from Durham, North Carolina. Contact her at shcao@davidson.edu

Comments are closed.