Sara Romanoski | Staff Writer
Christopher Juhn | Photographer
“I feel sad, I wasn’t surprised, it’s America.” This was the response of Vice President of Student Affairs Joyce Coleman in relation to this summer’s event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although it has been nearly three months since the incident, smaller scale injustices happen every day, in every community, and we must not let the conversation lapse. These smaller incidents often go unreported and become silent crimes that contribute to an environment where intolerance and bigotry are normalized. With 40 percent of Century College students identifying as persons of color, this is an issue that is of urgent import to our community. By keeping these events in the spotlight, we are taking a stand and encouraging change in our nation.
On Aug. 12, a group of protesters gathered to oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a local park in Charlottesville, Virginia. Among the protesters were white nationalists, neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, and several armed militia groups. The groups marched the streets of downtown Charlottesville and in Emancipation Park, where the statue was to be removed. Counter protesters included Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, National Council of Churches, local civic organizations, students, business owners, and other community leaders marched in opposition of white supremacy.
While most instances of discrimination and prejudice are not reported by national news outlets, it doesn’t mean they aren’t occurring. “Charlottesville wasn’t a surprise,” said Coleman. “It has been happening for hundreds of years in America to people of color, and it’s still happening. But now we have social media and cell phones.” The rise of technology has given the everyman a platform to project hateful speech in a simple and non-confrontational way. With the barrier of a computer screen, these people feel free to post or share reprehensible rhetoric without consequence.
In the wake of protests and counter protests like the ones in Charlottesville, it can be difficult to know how to react or acknowledge what has happened. Often, people take to Facebook and other forms of social media to express feelings of anger, fear, or sympathy but after the initial shock wears off, they move on. While there may be a general understanding of the magnitude of these destructive and sometimes violent happenings, posting personal reactions on social media is a reflexive reaction to these overwhelming events, but in the end, are short lived and ineffective. No matter how genuine the sentiment, words are not enough. Standing up, taking action, and refusing to back down in the face of adversity are the only ways to ensure the facilitation of change.
Here are some suggestions for immediate action:
- Start Talking
Seek out opportunities to talk with others about current events and the political landscape. Facilitating conversations with peers can be a valuable tool in attempting to understand varying points of view.
- Educate Yourself
With the internet at our fingertips, the over-abundance of information and opinions are more accessible than ever. It is important to engage with credible news sources to ensure the media you consume provides you with accurate and un-biased information.
Monetary donations are a common way to show support, but if you want to take a more active role, consider volunteering your time. Try looking to government sponsored websites for verified organizations accepting donations and volunteers.
- Make Your Voice Heard.
Attend local rallies, demonstrations, or speeches to support causes you believe in. Sign petitions, engage with others, and be present in your community.
- Talk to Your Representatives
Call or write to your local representatives to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Don’t wait for someone else to call, take a stand, and voice your concerns. Visit the US House of Representatives and US Senate websites to find contact information.
“We have programs to support you and are trying to develop more programs to help students,” said Coleman. “It is about making sure that every student who comes through our door knows that they have value and they are valued. They are affirmed and they are going to become part of the community.” Century students have access to a variety of resources that can provide assistance if you are the victim of racial discrimination or need counseling services.
According to the Multicultural Center website, it provides valuable services like: cultural specific programming, social awareness and leadership opportunities, scholarship opportunities and international student support. For more information about the Multicultural Center, stop by their office at W1220 or visit www.century.edu/campus-life/multicultural-center.
Coleman has this advice to offer us, “Until we learn our history, we aren’t going to change. Until we start acknowledging people as individuals and not stereotypes, we’re not going to change.”