Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Cady Stribling

Features Editor

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President Jackson released a statement on Tuesday, June 2 in response to the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd — a statement that Jackson received criticism for. In a second statement, Jackson apologized, stating he understood the ways in which the first message fell short and announced a new plan of action to promote diversity and inclusion for the upcoming fall semester. It speaks volumes that he listened to the feedback and responded with a pledge to do better, but there were a number of issues left unaddressed with the first statement.

When the University addresses the devastating and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, their names deserve to be mentioned. Black students deserve to know their university has a clear stance against racism and has their protection and best interests as a top priority.

I comment on Jackson’s statements and other concerns at Murray State as a white woman with full knowledge my privilege means I will never endure any of the ways in which racism, prejudice and bigotry affect the black community and other people of color. It is not my place to speak for black students at Murray State but to use my voice to amplify theirs.

And this is what they had to say:

“[The statement] did not solidify that the University is standing with its people of color,” said junior Kaya White. “Not saying that the University does not help people of color with certain things because they do. However in times like these, it is important not to beat around the bush, especially when you have the affected population at your institution. People need to feel supported. It is one thing to say you are actually doing something, but it’s another to actually do it.”

“The real issue with President Jackson’s initial post is that it fails to address what is going on in our country,” said junior Chelsea Carter. “I’m sure he had well intentions, but his words have power to his students and his message showed black students that he not only wouldn’t address the fact that their people are being unjustly murdered by the police, and have been for a long time, but that he condemns the way black people deal with their pain. Most people can agree that violence is not the answer, but why should black people be peaceful with people who have never been peaceful with us? What do you expect black people to do when they feel as though their voices are not being listened to? No one benefited from the President’s message, and I’m sure he recognized this. We know the President meant no harm by his initial post and I’m positive the post is not a reflection on how he truly feels, but I do hope in the future he will use his platform to support his black students and to send a message that clearly states that #blacklivesmatter and that America will never become a unified, equal country unless police officers are held accountable for killing innocent unarmed men, women, children and non-binary African Americans.”

President Jackson did clear up many of the problems with his original statement with the exception of, as Carter points out, his comment of violence on top of violence. Of course no one is advocating nor do they want violence to ensue. However, it is not the place of a white person to tell the black community how to deal with the generational and systemic discrimination they have been fighting for centuries. Centuries. Who cares about a Target building if its destruction means dismantling the racist system. Target will come back. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Atatiana Jefferson, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin and so many more will not.

It should be noted that at many nationwide protests there were instances of people outside of the Black Lives Matter movement who took advantage of what they perceived as a time to be destructive rather than a time to enact change. It should also be noted a plethora of protests remained peaceful until the police and National Guard failed in their duty to protect and serve. Instead, they shot rubber bullets, tear gassed and bulldozed their cruisers into crowds, causing blindness, seizures and death, among other things. Unfortunately, change wasn’t happening until people began protesting. Our local and federal governments made it clear, proven by years of persistent racism through police brutality, they had no intention of helping to deliver justice through legislation that black people have waited so long for. Now they’re demanding it, and I believe it to be long overdue.

All too often institutions repeat the same rhetoric of diversity but fall short in creating genuine change, and Murray State has a lot of work to do. Again, this statement doesn’t come from my experiences as I will never understand feeling excluded because of the color of my skin, but from the experiences of people I know and love as stated here:

“I love Murray State and I love a lot of the people I’ve met there, but my sense of belonging doesn’t come from the University,” said senior Andrea Daniels. “It’s the Emerging Scholars Institute. Without Dr. SG and that program, I would likely feel out of place on that campus. It feels like everything that includes or benefits black people or people of color in general is done by our Multicultural Office when really we should be able to feel seen, heard, loved, and invited everywhere. I’ve made relationships outside of the office and that’s great. But it doesn’t change my experiences or any of our experiences. And it doesn’t negate all of the ignorance and discrimination that is allowed to continue on campus.”

Frankly, the load of bettering the entire University’s inclusive atmosphere is too much for a few departments and programs to handle. Diversity and inclusion should be a top priority for every single person, club, organization and department on campus. Even more, holding people accountable begins with family, friends and community members. I’m glad President Jackson understood the shortcomings in his initial statement and was willing to do better by sending his second statement. Murray State has a lot of potential to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive campus, and I’m glad the University is willing to take the steps to make sure it happens.