The Honors College staff, students and partners remain committed to identifying ways to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. This effort begins with a commitment to acknowledging and listening to those voices that have been marginalized and silenced for far too long. It begins with a commitment to leveraging privilege to ensure justice for all. In begins with a commitment to practicing civility and empathy. And it begins with a commitment to cultivating and nourishing an active, engaged, and inclusive citizenry influencing positive social change.
Our Honors College and EC Scholar students have shared their perspectives with us about the events currently happening across our country. Their collective commitment to social justice and helping others is admirable and we support them in their drive to change the world. Their voices carry power and we wanted to share their viewpoints and thoughts on a wider platform.
Joint Statement from ECS Roundtable and HC Student Council
After centuries of systemic oppression and despite decades of social progress, racial injustices persist from microaggressions to discrimination to the tragic loss of lives. We, the members of the Honors College and EC Scholars program recognize that there is much work to be done. That work must start with an interior examination and recognition of our own shortcomings, including ignorance, indifference, and ill will, before we can engage in productive conversations. To create a better and more equitable society for the next generation, we need to develop compassion and empathy, and listen and learn, especially from those who are disadvantaged or different from us.
We have an important role in creating a more equitable world, which starts with changing the “us vs. them” mentality into a “we” mentality. From there, we can start the good work of promoting equality through fruitful dialogue in person and on social media, petitions and donations, Black Lives Matter marches, and elections.
In order to be tomorrow’s leaders, we must hold each other accountable today. We can no longer turn a blind eye or remain silent. Instead, we must stand visibly beside those who are suffering and be vocal about condemning racism. Through our efforts to build bridges, we must also have the courage to demonstrate patience, forgiveness, and grace.
Ultimately, as members of the Honors College and EC Scholars program, we must hold ourselves at a higher level of responsibility in leaving a legacy for future students. In order to have an impact in the classrooms, communities, and our careers in this region and beyond, we must strive beyond academic excellence and fight to end racism. As we live out East Carolina University’s motto, Servire, we must serve with the lens of racial justice. In this present darkness, may we shine.
I am not sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. Growth does not come from places of comfort. Saying not all cops are bad or openly expressing your indignation about the looting and the protesters are just covert ways to discredit black lives matter and the equality that is being fought for. Before you defend your cops or your businesses, take time to listen to what we are saying. Take time to really watch what is going on and see the maltreatment of black people that has been happening forever. Please acknowledge the fact that even when protestors are peaceful, we are still tear gassed, still being shot at, still being silenced.
See this as more than just a few isolated incidents of police brutality, but as a continuation and propagation of 400 years of oppression and a system that was built upon the exploitation of black and brown lives. Black people are literally saying stop killing us, please see my humanity, please see me as equal. I need every nonblack person to acknowledge their privilege. I need you to acknowledge how tired you must be seeing the news and everywhere on social media they’re talking about protests and rioting. Now I need you to put this in the context of how it must feel for Black people. This isn’t just a news broadcast channel that we can change when we’re tired of hearing it. This isn’t a social media app we can close because we’re a little overwhelmed with all the media posts about what has gone on over the past six days. For Black people, this is everyday. Everyday you are drained to exhaustion, having to fight for your humanity and your right to live. Everything you do is a statement. Everyday you go to war with yourself and others in white spaces. You carefully present yourself to look not too angry, not too suspicious, not too hostile in hopes that you’ll have the chance of being able to come home safely and that you won’t become another hashtag. And even in all your efforts, it’s still not enough. No matter how peaceful, how accommodating, how considerate you are of white fragility, you are taught as a child that it will never be enough.
Please listen to what BLM is saying. Please be open to accept where your privileges may extend and recognize the rose colored glasses you’ve been provided. Please do what you can to help. And most of all please speak up, please stand with us, please show your solidarity and that you care. Your silence, your excuses, and refusal to see the situation as it is makes you just as culpable and complicit in the continued oppression of black people. All Black Lives matter. And all lives won’t matter until black lives do.
Too often does our society adopt the “us vs. them” mentality, turning a conversation into an argument, and curiosity into fear and hate. Among the abundance of responsibilities that come with adulthood, the greatest responsibility of our generation is to create a better world for the next generation. This is the time in our lives when we have the power to support our community through solidarity, not silence. Sign a petition, share resources on social media, read books about the black experience. Then do more. Put your compassion and empathy to work. Find ways you can initiate critical conversations on race and racism in your social spheres, find ways to educate future generations about equality, find ways that are centered on action rather than words alone. We have a role to play in creating a better and equal world for the generations that follow ours and that starts with changing the “us vs. them” mentality into a “we” mentality.
When people say to me “I’m just not into politics,” it baffles me. That statement right there, is a sign of your privilege. That you have the ability to ignore important policies our government makes because they don’t affect you. BIPOC and other various minorities don’t have that same level of privilege since these “political topics” infringe on their rights as human beings. So when the BLM movement started gaining traction in the end of May, it wasn’t a surprise to them. For many BIPOC, police brutality and systematic racism didn’t just show up with the murder of George Floyd, it’s been there since the beginning of their lives.
History has the habit of repeating itself. Since the founding of America, we have seen the systematic oppression of black men and women. With slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and so much more, we cannot afford to be on the wrong side of history anymore. The evidence is there, the current police system in the United States is not working and we need to change it. By staying silent, you are actively siding with the oppressor. Now is not the time to be “not into politics,” for it was never about politics, it’s about American lives.
People expect racism to be blatant. That it’s right there and it will slap you across the face and it can be. With the viral videos of people calling the police on innocent black men and women, it’s easy to point a finger and say “That right there is a racist.” However, most times it’s quiet. You don’t even have to look hard to see it. With racist rhetoric being told to us on a daily basis, we begin to believe that these thoughts that sweep into our head due the 400 hundred years of systematic oppression of BIPOC are facts rather than stereotypes. We question the validity of BIPOC stories and uphold the narrative told to us by our oppressors without a second thought. We need to break this cycle.
I implore you to listen to black voices. Hear them speak about systemic racism and don’t invalidate their experiences just because it hasn’t happened to you. Take that knowledge and act upon it. Sign petitions, donate to charities, hold people accountable for their racist actions. For without that, nothing is going to change and we will be stuck in this endless loop forever.
“Never Again”, a phrase I was raised on as Granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. This phrase means that Never Again will we allow people to be oppressed or killed, simply because they exist. For 400 years black people in America have been oppressed because of the color of their skin. “Never again” is now! Everything I have been taught from the Torah (Bible) tells me that we cannot sit by and watch while others suffer. There is a poem by Martin Niemoller that I think really speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement and why we should all be allies; it goes:
“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me “
I am afforded privilege in this country because of the color of my skin, not everyone has that. I know that I will never understand what black people in America go through, but just because I am not black does not mean I should not speak out against the injustices that the black community is facing. Too often people will not care about an issue until it directly affects them. Just because an issue does not impact your daily life does not mean that you get to ignore it and act as though it does not exist. Tikkun Olam means to repair the world; not just for yourself, but for everyone; what are you doing to help make the world a better place?