A March Sparked by Ignorance Provides Geneseo a Moment of Solidarity

On Wednesday, May 1, members of the Geneseo college community participated in a March of Solidarity to support students attending the Cultivating Community Dialogue. The topic at the final dialogue of the Spring “Living Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” was how to promote inclusivity in the town of Geneseo with Mayor Margaret Duff.

 

Over a hundred people dressed in all black gathered in solidarity to promote safety, inclusivity and democracy in a campus community that is supposed to highlight these core values. Many of these students have recognized that some of the core values of the college do not match the core values the students want to promote, as shown at the Town Hall meeting Tuesday April 30.

 

The Geneseo community had recently been shaken by an incident where a student posted on her snapchat and horribly misused the word blackface while wearing charcoal face masks. Further editorials from students express concern over how the college would handle this incident.

 

Legally, it is not possible for Geneseo to formally punish these students. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reached out the school, expressing their opinion that any legal action or investigations must be stopped because the Snapchat in question was protected under free speech. Despite a general understanding that legal actions could not be taken, there was still an unease on the campus that not enough had been done.

 

Some students felt that the college was not showing enough solidarity and emotion through flimsy emails highlighting the incident and wanted the administration to make it clear what should and should not be tolerated on this campus. These students decided to make their voices heard, showing that they do not welcome racist comments or “jokes" in their home.

 

A small group working with Activists Fighting Racial Oppression (AFRO) wanted to plan a walk to bring the students together separate from planned events like the Town Hall Meeting meant to discuss inclusivity and safety and Cultivating Community Dialogue the following day. Word about the march quickly got out across campus and over one hundred students gathered near the college green on the warm Wednesday afternoon.

 

Standing by so many students, professors and faculty, we were proud to be a part of a community that is promoting change through peaceful protests. Chants like “this is what democracy looks like,” “Justice now,” “Black Lives Matter,” “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and many more carried through the wind.

 

We at Her Campus were proud to see so many students and faculty in the crowd showing how strongly they feel about the values of this campus. We want the school to think about its minority population and how they can keep everyone safe, not just white students. People come to Geneseo with all different cultures and experiences, and everyone should feel accepted and safe here regardless of their background.

 

Reactions to the march were largely positive. As the large group paraded from Erwin Hall to MacVittie College Union, we saw support from many passing faces. Some students cheered us on with smiles and some even joined in. We were disappointed by some of the confused looks by some who did not know the march was occurring, but we hope it became a learning experience for those people - that they can learn that there is work that needs to be done to improve the campus community.

 

Arriving at the dialogue, people shared their personal stories inside and outside of Geneseo. These were powerful moments, reminding everyone how hurtful the school can be when it does not address the issues that are close to the students’ hearts.

 

Duff herself stated at the dialogue that she had adopted a policy in November condemning any sort of racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic behavior within the greater Geneseo town, which includes stores and businesses.

 

As white students at Geneseo, the dialogue was helpful for us to realize that we have not been good allies. We realized that in order to truly help the situation improve, we needed to become more active in the community, and speak out when others showed ignorance. Simply saying ‘I am an ally’ is not enough.

 

Across the United States, there has been a rise in bigotry toward many different ethnic groups, races, religions and identities. Safety is being threatened, and there is a duty to all of us to protect diversity. As three white Geneseo students, we could not be prouder of the way our campus is joining in the fight for all equality once and for all.

 

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