In August 2014, I went to my first Black Lives Matter protest. I was nervous and had no idea what I was doing but after seeing yet another unarmed black teenager murdered by police, I’d had enough.
About 20 of us gathered in Speaker’s Circle at the University of Missouri. Not as an act of rebellion but to let everyone who could hear us know that we were sick and tired of seeing our people die from police brutality.
I was silent the entire time, taking moments to glance at every person that was standing around me. There were tears streaming down almost every face, eyes closed and hands lifted up to the sky looking for an answer.
A few months later, Tamir Rice was murdered. Another black life taken, this time a child’s. Again, students at Mizzou gathered, this time on the steps of Jesse Hall in the pouring rain. That entire night still feels like a bit of a blur because, to this day, I can’t understand how a 12-year-old boy could have ever been viewed as a threat.
I’ll admit that at first I only wanted to protest because I thought it was all that I could do. So I’d show up, scream loud, pray, cry and show love to anyone and everyone that was around me. It wasn’t until the protest for Tamir Rice that I understood what this was all about.
It was at that protest that one of my peers stood up and said,
“Demanding justice is not going to be easy. This is the season of inconvenience.”
About a week ago, one of my fellow alumni posted this article saying how he was fed up with the way his university was being portrayed in the media. He said he was embarrassed because of the protests and ashamed that his university had become the butt of so many jokes.
My immediate reaction was to be upset but I can see how my white peers don’t understand the frustration of black students at Mizzou and other PWIs. I can understand how it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, how these incidents of racism seem isolated. It’s easy to say that not every black student is being called the n-word on campus, it’s easy to say that the KKK is dead just because you don’t see them walking around in white hoods and cloaks and it’s very easy to be a white student at the University of Missouri and other PWIs ignoring the systemic racism that is rampant on campus.
I can’t help but chuckle at my white peers who feel inconvenienced by the fact that their alma mater is just as racist as the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it’s true.
But you know what’s more inconvenient? Walking while black, going to school while black, driving on the highway while black, trying to get a job while black, simply living life as a black person. It seems like no matter what I do or what my peers do we are already guilty because of our skin. Black people don’t have the luxury of being seen as a human first. Instead, we are seen as threats, thugs and gangsters.
I can understand how one might cringe when they’re asked about what’s happening at the University of Missouri, however, I have no sympathy. Although my four years at the university were filled with love, laughs and amazing opportunities, they were also filled with a lot of hatred and racism. And those are things I will never forget.
What’s happening on college campuses everywhere is not a coincidence. Black lives matter and you will hear our voices because we’ve been silent for far too long. Protests aren’t supposed to be convenient. Calling out racism isn’t going to be easy and accepting your privilege and using it to help move the movement forward is hard work. You don’t get a pass just because you’re white you don’t get to ignore it just because you’re an alumni.
So accept it, because what you’re witnessing is history. You can sit back and be pissed at how inconvenient it is to watch or you can join in because I promise we’re not backing down.