Last Tuesday, a sizeable group of students, faculty members, and administrators staged a die-in on the sidewalk between DeBartolo and O’Shaughnessy Halls. It was a peaceful demonstration that lasted 11 minutes in remembrance of Eric Garner, the man who cried “I can’t breathe” eleven times while he was choked to death by police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Tensions were high before the demonstration, as the controversial verdict on Michael Brown’s case had been released a few weeks earlier.
However, I was still shocked by some of the responses students had to this peaceful protest. I’m usually a big fan of our Yik Yak feed as I love reading the hilarious perspectives about life at Notre Dame, but I was completely unprepared for what I read during the days following the protest. The posts and comments on the anonymous feed featured everything from tasteless jokes to nasty racist comments. Of course, we all know how much fun anonymity is, but when is a line being crossed?
It’s easy to become trapped in the Notre Dame bubble and feel disconnected from the outside world. Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s stories stirred a lot of national controversy, and while many students felt strongly about the issue, only a few decided to speak up. These activists used the tag #AllLivesMatter (as opposed to the original #BlackLivesMatter) to encourage everyone to speak up, even people who disagreed with the protest.
The purpose of the die-in was to spark a campus-wide discussion about a major social issue, but was met with a lot of backlash. Many Yaks that made light of the situation gained popularity, and one particularly upsetting comment was along the lines of, “If you want to be a social activist, you’ve come to the wrong place.” What is that even supposed to mean? That Notre Dame students shouldn’t care about pressing social issues? Yes, ND is a fairly conservative university, but we should still have a community of students who feel able to talk openly about such issues.
Another surprisingly common post was the “Ugh, that die-in was such an inconvenience” post. Seriously, students claimed they couldn’t get to class on account of the people blocking the small section of sidewalk between O’Shag and DeBart. As if there is only one sidewalk connecting the two.
While Yik Yak may have been vicious following the die-in, the event certainly did spark conversation around campus. The anonymous response was overwhelmingly negative, but my naivete has allowed me to believe that only a handful of people posted such tasteless things.
The majority of Domers do have a sense of social responsibility (that’s what got us here, isn’t it?) and so I’m hoping that we can address the different sides of social issues respectfully as a community.
Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (all provided by author)