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Racial (In)Justice at Adelphi University

Over the Halloween weekend, several members of an Adelphi university Greek organization posted a photo on Instagram, showing themselves as white police officers standing around an African American man, also a member of the fraternity, dressed as a prison inmate on his knees. The caption of the photo read, “we’re not racist.”

 

The photo received widespread attention on Facebook and other social media platforms, expressing a variety of reactions from fellow students, ranging from humor to harsh criticism. After being confronted on social media by an activist for social justice on campus, the members who posted the photo took it down and apologized respectfully, saying their intention was not to offend anyone. They have since engaged in peaceful discussion with a number of diversity oriented groups on campus. The photo will not be shown in this article due to the group’s respectful nature and action taken in the situation. 

 

This post is the most recent of incidents bringing up issues of race and injustice at Adelphi this semester. At Midnight Madness earlier this month, a large school-wide event where athletic teams are introduced to the student body before their seasons start, a peaceful demonstration was held during the singing of the national anthem. The student enlisted to sing the anthem began with the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly known as the Black American National Anthem. As confused students stood and listened, the student transitioned into the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and a large group of student protesters, many of them members of Black Students United, sat down. The students, dressed in black, raised their fists in solidarity; the protest echoed the controversial demonstration of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, in which he knelt on the field during the national anthem to express his outrage with police brutality and the treatment of Black citizens in America. 

Students who participated in the demonstration have since faced overwhelming backlash over social media, with other students commenting on posts regarding the demonstration with severe insults. Students have been told to leave the school, learn how to respect our country, and to stop taking everything so seriously. Comments have been screencaptured in the images below, with image and profile names blurred out for respect of individual privacy.

WARNING: Some comments contain strong language. 

 

One student, who has faced particular scrutiny as a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter movement here at Adelphi, has been vocal about her experiences thus far. Saying that she no longer feels safe at her school, the student has vowed to become a larger voice for the movement, and to become a key proponent for change on social justice issues. The student has since co-founded a student protest organization whose goal is to hold the university accountable for its actions/inaction regarding legislation passed by the Trump administration.

 

In response to the Halloween photo, university president Christine Riordan wrote an email to the student body citing the need for change on a large scale, and the need to become a more united community. “We are one Adelphi,” wrote Riordan,  “It is up to all of us to model what diversity and inclusion really mean, not only for ourselves, but also for the broader community.  Now is our time to pull together.” Known for her strategic, often hollow responses to important issues, Riordan’s letter did little to quell anxieties felt by student activists. 

 

Following the incidents, a freeze mob was organized across campus on Tuesday, calling upon students to stand perfectly still in public university spaces for two minutes. During the demonstration, incidents of police brutality against young black men were reenacted throughout campus, and demonstrators were called to stand around the main flagpole and raise their fists while “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was performed.

Adelphi students are working tirelessly to create an environment that fosters dialogue for free expression of speech and offers an opportunity to learn how others may view situations from a perspective that differs from their own. The university has put forth an initiative, called Racial Justice Matters, in an attempt to jump start these discussions, but so far, the effect has yet to be seen. Student activists have been organizing protests and speaking peacefully with opposition in an effort to create this environment, but this kind of social awareness is extremely hard to spread, especially in a predominantly white, predominantly affluent community such as this.

In a time where America’s social and political climate is as intense as this, the importance of mindfulness is more apparent than ever. Despite not meaning to intentionally offend any group of people, our actions reflect who we are as members of society. If you are approached by someone saying that something you have said or done has offended them on the basis of race, sexuality, gender, or any other factor, apologize. Your intention does not matter, what matters is the effect your actions have left on that person and group. Standing idly by and waiting for change to occur is never going to work. If we want change, we must enact it.

One of the ways in which you can take part in change and make your voice heard is to vote. We will not tell you who to vote for, but as Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live has said, “You have the power to decide what kind of country we will live in.” In an election like this, in which the livelihoods of countless groups of people are being threatened so severely, exercising your right to vote is imperative.

On a smaller scale, you can take action in your own community. At Adelphi, it is important to educate yourself on issues taking place, join diversity initiatives and organizations that work to enact change, and to remain respectful at all times. Your voice can be heard. You can make a difference. We can be a part of the movement, and we can effect change on our campus.  

Above all, the most important (and easiest) thing to do in a discussion like this is to listen. We cannot scream our views at one another and expect anything to be heard. In a contest to see who has the loudest volume, content often gets lost amid the noise. Despite how you may feel on the issue, it is vital to listen to the opposing side, and to see where their views come from. From there, a meaningful dialogue can be established, and a conversation about how to move forward can begin.

Here at Her Campus, we stand in solidarity with the brave students and faculty voicing their unrest through demonstration and protest. Your courage is admired, your passion is recognized, and your voices are heard. #BlackLivesMatter

Hi, I'm Alexis! I'm a senior Communications major with a journalism concentration, and I'm an editor and campus co-coordinator for our Adelphi chapter of Her Campus! After graduating, I hope to write for news organizations that cover important social and humanitarian issues in our political sphere and in the global community. Other than writing, I enjoy reading, napping, and sightseeing. One fun fact about me is that I'm left-handed, which means I'm more likely to become President! I mainly write political content relating to the most current issues facing our country and the world.
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