Last week (first week November 2016), a group of Middle Tennessee State University students, who call themselves the Talented Tenth, organized a week of silent protesting on campus to bring awareness to racism against minorities. From the campus naming a building after a KKK Grand Wizard, to students making careless and discriminating remarks about minorities, these students are done tolerating being treated as if their feelings and lives are of smaller importance. The Talented Tenth was formed last year because minority students felt the heat of a very real problem not just within our nation, but in the small and “non-discriminating” campus of their college.
Senior Arin Cooper explained the movement as basically, “a series of protest to bring awareness to people about what’s going on. Some people don’t care and some don’t even know.”
“Very few people even acknowledge it. I think it’s one of those subject people know about that they are afraid to talk about,” added fellow coalition member Danielle Bowden.
She went on to explain what lead to the protests and why they are needed. “We originally started fighting to get the Forrest hall name change,” said Bowden. “As we met we basically talked about recent killings. We talked about the struggles we deal with being black in a predominately white institution.”
Thus, it was time to make an effort towards change.
During a day of their protesting, I approached the students with questions. What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to them? Why were they protesting? How had they felt discriminated against on campus?
To my surprise, the students were faced with more negative backlash than questions about their movement.
Zaria Walker, Co-Chair of the Talented Tenth, touched on how people misinterpret the movement and how they react.
“We’ve had people say all lives matter and snicker and glare or they shake their heads and try not to look at us. That stuff gets to you.”
In one instance a student came up to them and told them, “F*ck you. I’m tired of this bullsh*it.”
In another instance, someone told them that all lives matter, and by holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” they were saying Black lives were the only ones they cared about.
“No one in this movement believes that. We are saying our lives matter too, not ONLY our lives. People put ONLY at the end of it and that’s where the anger and confusion come from.”
But that is hardly excusable. These students are trying to bring awareness to their peers by speaking out and they are treated with disregard, misunderstanding, and ignorance. Why? Why aren’t more people asking questions, asking why they feel the need to protest?
“When I hear people say “All Lives Matter” I hear ignorance. People who demean the BLM movement and justify it by attempting to say that we are excluding everyone else’s life, obviously doesn’t know what the movement is for,” said Byron Bankhead, who also participates in the movement. “I see it as a way to avoid accepting credibility over this tragedy. People love to look over the main point of the movement and focus on specific wordplay, once again to avoid the realissues at hand.”
“The racial discrimination, oppression, and systematic racism that we encounter is a REAL problem and other people do not see it as such,” Bankhead goes on to describe the issues. “It is the job of the movement to bring that awareness and shed light on the problems we face or society will continue to sweep us under the rug.”
Walker followed up with how society hinders the movement by remaining uninvolved.
“The problem is people say “I’m not racist. I don’t say the N-word.” But your silence is contributing. It’s saying it isn’t affecting you so don’t bother. Once you speak up that’s when change happens. That’s why I’m glad people of other cultures are joining us.”
Racism isn’t just the use of the “N-word” or not wanting your daughter to date a Black man. Racism exists in the wage gap, the assumption that Black men and women are enrolled in college or hired at a business due to the need of diversity. Racism is the assumption that someone Black is less trustworthy than someone white. It’s falsely accusing people of color of committing “more crimes than whites” when they only commit more crimes within a specific category. It’s taking advantage of their disadvantages. It’s not listening when they cry out peacefully for equality.
“I am an advocate for fair treatment of everyone [but] I feel as if the black community is drained for its resources, culture, and [we] struggle but no one supports us.” said Bankhead.
This is a movement not with the intent to rebel, not with the intent to bring hate or disregard to the majority race, but rather, an intent to speak out and say, “We matter. We deserve to be treated equally. And we NEED your help. Please, stick up for us.”