How Black Lives Matter, born on the streets, is rising to power on campus (Quadruple Participation)

In addition to commenting on article, I would like you to go to article and read the comment section.  Then, using course readings and materials, please write a response to the comment.  Be specific. In total this should be 200 words

 November 17 at 6:54 PM
The Black Lives Matter movement was born in the working-class streets of Ferguson, Mo., but its strongest foothold may now be in a far more elite environment: the American university.

College campuses have become fertile ground for the movement, a network of provocative activists who are clamoring for an overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system and other social changes aimed at bettering the lives of African Americans.

The movement’s most visible victory on campus came last week, when the president of the University of Missouri System resigned after a group called Concerned Student 1950 launched a chain of protests. But other groups with similar priorities are agitating at campuses from North Carolina to Oregon — and forcing significant changes.

At Columbia University in New York, a Black Lives Matter-aligned group called Students Against Mass Incarceration prompted the university this summer to drop its investments in private prisons.

At Kalamazoo College in Michigan, demonstrations this spring led officials to agree to open an intercultural center where minority students can find support.

Play Video3:35

Missouri student president reflects on lasting impact of campus protests

Throughout the fall semester, University of Missouri’s campus has been at the center of student protests against racial intolerance. Missouri Student Association President Payton Head reflects on the weeks leading up to university president Tim Wolfe’s resignation. (Jayne W. Orenstein/The Washington Post)

At Wesleyan University in Connecticut, anger over a September 2014 column viewed as unfairly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement led the student government to cut off funding for the campus newspaper.

And at Georgetown University in the District, student demonstrations led the administration last week to rechristen two buildings that had been named for college presidents who sold slaves.

The shift to academia has expanded the movement’s focus beyond raw anger over young men dying at the hands of police. Campus activists tend to have more nuanced and even symbolic concerns: Groups at nearly two dozen colleges have demanded a more diverse faculty, more ethnic-studies classes, improved mental health services for students of color and policies for dealing with incidents the activists find offensive.

Academic institutions have struggled at times to respond to these demands, particularly when they come into conflict with the free-speech rights of others. Meanwhile, the protests have sparked tension between activists and other groups — such as college journalists — who traditionally have been sympathetic.

Social movements have long found a home at institutions of higher learning, which have historically encouraged the free exchange of ideas among students who have the energy and freedom to pursue new passions. Student groups played a critical role in the civil rights movement and antiwar protests of the 1960s, the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1980s, and protests over the war in Iraq during the past decade.

Many students in the movement say they were driven to act by the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and Michael Brown in Ferguson last year — two young, unarmed black men whose shooting deaths outraged the nation and crystallized perceptions of racial discrimination in the United States. In interviews, student activists said the deaths of Martin and Brown made clear how far the country has to go to achieve racial justice.

Many also were infuriated by their universities’ responses to Brown’s killing, which sparked massive demonstrations in Ferguson and elsewhere.

“We just wanted a public acknowledgment of what was going on, because the grief and trauma were real,” said Rian Brown, a senior religion studies major at Kalamazoo College who is now involved with her school’s chapter of #BlackLivesMatter, the national organization whose name became a moniker for the broader movement.

Rian Brown and other students went to Ferguson to demonstrate in the months after Michael Brown’s death, and Rian Brown was arrested. When she returned to school, she said, she found herself distracted and depressed. Her grades plummeted, and she lost her scholarship. Now, she says, she raises money online to pay her tuition.

The issue is personal for many of these students: They have witnessed the election of America’s first black president, but they arrive at college to find an environment surprisingly unwelcoming to minorities, said Peniel E. Joseph, a professor of history and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

“They’ve been bombarded with a lot of lies and contradictions. But one of the biggest lies was post-racialism, that because of Obama’s election they are going to experience an equality of opportunity,” Joseph said. Then “they come to college and find there are no black professors, the curriculum is not diverse . . . and they become victims of racial oppression.”

While social media is a critical tool for these activists, many students are also looking back to borrow tactics from activists of the 1960s. They have dug deep into their universities’ histories, discovering the unacknowledged role slave labor played in building their colleges and the historically black communities that were wiped out to make room for new dormitories.

At Georgetown, for instance, students demanded the renaming of Mulledy and McSherry halls after discovering the buildings were named for school presidents who orchestrated the sale of slaves to help pay off a campus debt. At Missouri, students named their group in honor of the first black student, who attended the university in 1950.

At the University of Cincinnati, Alexander Shelton began organizing immediately after Michael Brown’s death, founding a group called UC Students Against Injustice. Over time, Shelton said, he and others accumulated a long list of grievances: the dwindling proportion of black students and professors on campus, the number of racially charged incidents that they said went unchallenged by the administration, the barrage of crime alerts that unhelpfully identified the suspect simply as a “black male.”

Then, earlier this year, a white officer with the university police department shot and killed Samuel DuBose, a black local resident, during a traffic stop. The incident — which led to murder charges against the officer — gave rise to the Irate 8, a group named for the percentage of black students in the University of Cincinnati student body last year.

The Irate 8 group has issued a list of demands to the university, aimed at improving diversity and seeking changes at the police department. The university’s chief diversity officer, Bleuzette Marshall, said she has met repeatedly with the group to hear its concerns and to convey the message that changes are afoot. For example, the percentage of students who are black climbed to 10.4 percent during the current school year, a small but significant improvement, she said.

“Our circumstance is different than Missouri,” Marshall said. “The reason theirs escalated the way that it did was a lack of [administration] response. That’s not the case here. . . . My hope is that we would not experience a Missouri in Cincinnati.”

But Shelton said the Irate 8 is “getting weary of the niceties.” In protest of “systemic racism” at the university, Shelton, an international-affairs, French and political-science triple major, has abstained from classes for three semesters.

“After the uprising in Mizzou,” he said, “we are now starting to see the collective power that we have.”

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.
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4 comments

  1. I believe that this is a big issue in today’s society because people are not willing to be treaded unequally anymore. I remember last year our university had a protest about African-Americans students too. I had the opportunity to read some of their posters, and I remember one in specific that said, “We are people too.” This protest got me thinking that discrimination plays a big role in society. For intense, during lecture I learned that people associated criminals with black people, something called BlackCriminalMan. People tends to relate black people with crime, this association creates a stereotype. African-Americans are tired of the disadvantages that they faced in. Not having privileges and being judge by others makes them want to raise their voices to be treated equally.

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  2. The huge issue which inevitably leads to all these problems is the common belief that racism has been beaten and is no longer an issue in the United States. People take a quick look, state that slavery has been banished many years and believe that everything is all good and dandy now, but in reality that is far from the truth. America is the only country who had slaves for longer than just a period in their history, America was the first slave society. Due to this, the issues and anger goes deep and will take much more than just “ending slavery” to exasperate all the animosity and hate that has been carried on for so long. The other problem, that we touched on during our class outside event is that colleges “claim” to be diverse, putting it all over their brochures, but when you dig deeper you notice how untrue that is, especially as a student. At WSU alone, only 3.3% of the students are African american… that’s a pretty sorry attempt at diversity. One comment I read on the articles page is as follows: “You people just make up the garbage you want to work yourselves up about. Get a life.” This stood out to me because of the ignorance it must take for someone to physically type that and believe it. In another blog, it said that 60% of white males believe America was better off in the 1950’s. The comment that was posted and that stat show that we have a long way to come yet, and that many people are uneducated on the issues regarding ethnic studies, and what it means to reach equality.

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  3. All the human being are equal even if there are difference between them in skin color, but sadly more then 90% of the African American abused in America the land of freedom and justice as it known. Black people souls really matter and its value is equal to the other souls. One of the main reasons that these people lives treated brutally it’s because Their ancestors were enslaved and worth less, but that time is gone and did, and this time supposed to be the equality time. I feel sad for that black student who dug hardly in his university history and found out that his university cleaned his people land and replaced it with colleges without any right and conscience. this is really big issue we have to cooperate and make every American citizen equal to the other because I think the people are not satisfied about treating them unequally. and am so proud that the Cogues family did fought for the abused people rights.

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  4. The part of this article that said, “…the percentage of students who are black climbed to 10.4 percent…” resonated with me because schools, corporations, and the like love putting the words ” racially diverse” on brochures and saying how progressive and inclusive they are but just because there is at least one student from each race, doesn’t make you diverse. 10.4% bIack is nothing, my high school was 48% black and latino. I think if whites make up more than 60% of the student body a school shouldn’t be able to advertise as diverse because to me it’s false advertising like saying a jug of orange juice is “made with real juice” but only contains 5% real orange juice, reading that gives the impression it’s a much higher percentage and that’s what schools count on. They’re using the idea that we’re a post racial society now to say racism is over we’re a diverse school come to us and minority students get there expecting to see lots of other students like them and get treated fairly and find out that nothing has changed. On the article’s site I saw a comment that said “…I see black only scholarships, job training, colleges, fraternities and no exclusive equivalent for whites. I see affirmative action, hiring quotas, promotion preferences, lower testing and admission standards for blacks, nada for whites.” and it made me furious to the point I had to step away from my computer for a few minutes. The comment was so ignorant I couldn’t believe someone old enough to be reading this article could still think that way. They are completely oblivious to the fact that not only do minority only scholarships make up less than 5% of the total, black only are less than 2% and whites get on average 75% of non racial merit based scholarships so even excluding the ENTIRE history of the U.S. that disadvantaged minorities, they’re still justifiable in just the context of paying for school as evening the playing field still only a little bit. And to address things like affirmative action and hiring quotas that’s because of both explicit and implicit biases, blacks are hired at such a lower rate that sometimes it’s almost impossible for them to get a job without that help, especially for minimum wage jobs like at McDonalds. Even the lower testing and admission standards are part of trying to even out a biased system. It helps to make up for the advantage of better public schools and private schools outside of the inner cities and ghettos that whites go to at a hugely disproportionate rate than that of minorities. At the private school my girlfriend went to, each of her four years they had only 5-15 black students out of a student body of over ONE THOUSAND, So every time I hear someone complain about the minute amount of minority only scholarships or other minority programs that help equal the playing field I completely understand why these groups are fighting for changes both in society and in education.

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