OU Students Speak Out on BLM

*This is an opinion piece. All opinions are the students’ own. Students self-identified their race.*

 

#BlackLivesMatter was the movement created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and it has grown to protests, marches, and social media activism since then. I wanted to ask students at Ohio University how Black Lives Matter (BLM) affected them and the school, and I was surprisingly overwhelmed with responses. These are some of the many opinions and ideas of OU students speaking out on BLM.

 

1) What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?

 

“It has actually taken awhile for me to really figure out what BLM means to me. I see the movement as a chance for Black lives to say what they've really been wanting to say for many years. If I could put that into words,it would read, "Hey, listen to us, we're here and we want the same treatment as everyone else in society, enough is enough." Whether that be in regard to the countless shootings of unarmed black men and women, the war on drugs that has led to mass incarceration leaving black families broken across the country, or even underrepresentation in government and society in general. The movement has really opened my eyes to the fact that there needs to be change.”

-Courtlen, Senior, African American/Caucasian

“The BLM is a movement that represents unrest over oppression of minority groups in the United States. Millennials are banding together to raise awareness that African Americans are facing challenges that infringe on their rights as citizens. The social movement addresses not only an archaic mindset that one race is more superior, but the idea that one life is not worth more than another. I do believe that is the important aspect of "Black Lives Matter" versus "All Lives Matter." Not all races are facing oppression based on the color of their skin. African Americans are still facing discrimination from a man on the street to a local police officer, convinced that they don't deserve the same treatment as the next citizen.”

-Maisee, First-year, Caucasian

 

“To me, BLM is a voice for the black community. Many times African Americans don't get the opportunities to be heard or have the validation that is lawfully given by our country. BLM is [...a movement] that brings attention to the constant injustice that the black community faces on a daily basis. The [...movement]  isn't a panacea to all social justice issues, but it's a good start to waking up our country.”

-Ashleigh, First-year, African American

 

“To me the Black Lives Matter movement means creating a sense of brother/sisterhood in the black community. It is not anti police, anti white, or anti any race. We believe that all lives matters, but at a time in our history where it seems as though we are regressing to actions of the 1950's, we hope that everyone of all races should come together and stand up against aggressive/fatal actions against those who don't deserve it. Fatal force should only be used when the officer believes that a suspect puts the lives of him/herself or others in jeopardy. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and when you are a person of color and you see this acts being done in high numbers to people who look like you, it can be alarming. Most people I know are afraid or being pulled over, because we feel as though we won't be treated with dignity/respect. The most fear coming from the fact that we feel that might be our last interaction with a person.”

-Ricolette, First-year, Black (Jamaican)

 

“It means wanting a change. There are people today that are trying to make a change with racism in today's society. They want an easy to remember phrase to catch on and spread so it can widely impact others all around the world.”

-Haley, First-year, Caucasian

“As a Caucasian male, the BLM movement may not affect me in the same way it may affect a black person.  However, I have several black friends and I realize that this movement is very important to them. Therefore, at least to me, the BLM movement means a movement toward acknowledging police brutality toward African Americans and coming up with reasonable solutions to this problem.  Is the BLM movement always using the best tactics to get the message out? Maybe not. Is there a problem with police stereotypes and (sometimes) unnecessary violence toward African Americans? Absolutely. The key is for BLM to find a PEACEFUL, effective way to spread their message and not create animosity from other ethnicities, due to the violence against police after the original murders of African Americans.”

-Taylor, Senior, Caucasian

“The Black Lives Matter movement means to me that myself, my friends and family that are of darker complexion, and my future children all deserve equal respect and rights when it comes to everyday situations.  It means that when I go in for a job interview, the employer won't look at my last name and write me off compared to others with last names such as "Smith" or "Hamilton."  It means that teachers, coaches, employers, those in high up positions will look at me and believe in me just as much as they would someone with a lighter complexion.”

-Yazzie, First-year, African American/Caucasian

 

“To me the movement highlights extreme police brutality and  provides a sense of togetherness within the black community.

-Marcus, Senior, African American

 

“I believe that BLM is a positive, yet misunderstood movement. Many people interpret "Black Lives Matter" as *only "Black Lives Matter", and that is not the case. So in defense, they follow up by exclaiming that "All Lives Matter". Of course all lives matter, no one is debating that. However, at this time, Black lives are being unjustly taken far too often by the people who are sworn to protect us. Many times there isn't even an indictment, even when there is substantial incriminating evidence against the officers. It is especially frustrating when you consider the fact that Blacks are often charged and incarcerated for far less. So I believe the natural reaction to these officers not getting charged is the feeling that our lives do not matter. For this reason, the BLM movement was born and I believe that it is necessary. We must do what we can do spread awareness of inequity in the criminal justice system, and let it be known that our lives matter as well.”

-Brian, Alumni, Black

 

(Photo courtesy of athensnews.com)

2) How would you define Ohio University's impact on Black Lives Matter?

 

“When I was at Ohio University, I noticed that the reaction to the BLM movement was somewhat vitriolic. Many people have dismissed the movement as hateful and anti-white/anti-law enforcement. This is not the case whatsoever. But because of this, I have seen many people laugh off the idea of the movement. I even recall people defacing the wall with people who did not agree with the movement. I think that it caused somewhat of a racial divide, and I think that it was unfortunate. As Bobcats, we should be one family. But the politics of BLM and law enforcement proved to be divisive. I think that cultural awareness and a better understanding of things from each other's perspective would help reduce the negative response to the movement, and I hope that someone in Athens is able to organize something of that nature.”

-Brian, Alumni, Black

 

“From what I've seen, it makes me so proud of my school already to see what OU has done involving BLM.  They have stepped up to basically say to me, "You matter."  It sounds cheesy but out of the five schools I applied for, only one sent me information on the multicultural groups they have. Not only that, but OU invited me to an entire multicultural event that changed my life.  They went out of their way to show me that they will believe in me and it's more than I ever received from the teachers, principals, and coaches I've had for the past 12 years.”

-Yazzie, First-year, African American/Caucasian

 

“I think the impact has been good but there's only so much our secluded campus can do, I think we are taking steps in the right direction but more can always be done.”

-Marcus, Senior, African American

 

“Nothing is ever done when it comes to topics like this. You can always do more to help change society for the better. It needs to be something that is brought more attention even more.”

-Haley, First-year, Caucasian

 

“I haven't seen much of a BLM movement at OU. However, I was studying abroad spring semester and was at home this summer, so I may have missed something.  Therefore I'd say there isn't much of a movement at OU, and if one wanted to increase the awareness of BLM at OU, they probably could, since there isn't one now (at least from what I can see). The students at OU seem very accepting and culturally aware, therefore the movement may thrive at OU.  On the other hand, not everyone agrees with the BLM movement so it is hard to say whether it would be a success or not.”

-Taylor, Senior, Caucasian

 

3) What do YOU do to impact the Black Lives Matter movement?

 

“I believe I impact the BLM movement by giving others information about the true essence of this movement, instead of what uninformed/prejudice people think they know about this movement. This movement is nonviolent and anyone who takes violent action in hopes of creating change, is not supported by this movement. This about peace and equal treatment.”

-Ricolette, First-year, Black (Jamaican)

 

“I do just about whatever I can to participate in the BLM movement. Social media is the biggest way that I contributed. In the summer when the movement was in full swing doing protests and such, I was actually in Africa so I wasn't able to participate. During that time, I turned to social media in order to let my voice be heard. I don't live in any of the cities where the protests took place. I actually live in a predominantly white town so I took that opportunity to inform my followers and friends that didn't really understand the movement. It's very hard to have a say in the BLM movement when you don't actually have to face the discrimination directly. That is the reason why I try to educate and inform as many people as I can.”

-Yazzie, First-year, African American/Caucasian

 

“Personally I try to go to protests but to be honest all I can do is be a successful black man. Get my degree and share my story so I can influence the next generation.”

-Marcus, Senior, African American

 

“I learn and listen and understand and speak. Learning about the topic and listening to stories and getting informed is a super smart way to help. That way once you understand you can speak out and help others understand and learn why this topic is so important in today's society.”

-Haley, First-year, Caucasian

 

“I plan to dedicate my life to public service and would like to be able to help be the change that we need. I would like to graduate with a law degree, help as many people as I can and eventually run for public office close to my hometown of Alliance, OH. I look up to many individuals within the BLM movement and one in particular is DeRay Mckesson. He has worked with schools, government and activist groups all across the country, just like I intend to. My goals align with his and I hope that I can one day be the same type of leader for Ohio that he is for Maryland.”

-Courtlen, Senior, African American/Caucasian

 

“I work for the Ohio Democratic Party, specifically with Hillary For America. As an employee, law enforcement is a hot button issue that I advocate for, and I almost act as a surrogate for her. I have attended and hosted events based on policing in our communities. I think that it is important that something must be done. I hope to do more with this issue, because it is important to me and people of my community, and I hope to be able to spread awareness, as well as convince people opposing to consider things from another perspective.”

-Brian, Alumni, Black

 

Check out blacklivesmatter.com for more information.

Cover photo courtesy of politico.com

 

How do you make your voice heard? Let us know on Twitter @HerCampusOhioU.