Hokies March Against White Supremacy: Here's What You Need to Know

If you haven’t read my previous article Hate is Not Welcome Here, then stop what you are doing and read it. It has all the background information about why this protest occurred and the actions (or lack thereof) of the university administration leading to the protest.  

    Monday, November 6th, 2017 will be a night that I will probably remember for the rest of my life. The Hokies March Against White Supremacy started on the steps of Burruss, the most iconic building on our campus, and ended on the median in front of Torg Bridge. Students chanted at Torgerson Hall demanding action as the Board of Visitors held one of their meetings just a few yards away inside of Torg. This march was in response to the lack of action by the university administration in regards to Mark Neuhoff, his threats against a student, and his vocal and continuous proclamations of his involvement as a white supremacist.

A large crowd of people from all minority groups (students of color, Jewish descent and LGBTQ+ status) showed up on the steps of Burruss, and listened as people spoke about the sad responses of this university to issues facing the minorities of this campus. A quote from one of the speakers, “We are confronted with white supremacy not just in our country, not just in our state, but in our university; and we face a university administration who refuses to look the problem dead in the eye and fight it!...The university has shown time and time again that when they are confronted with a real need to uphold their stated principles of community they back down.” This quote explains every reason why so many people felt a need to show up and speak out against something so disturbing as the protection of a white supremacist by Virginia Tech administration.

As the chants asking Dr. Perillo to step up to the plate and the BOV to make a choice wound down, the voices of concerned students rose above the crowds. Students shared their thoughts and experiences and a quote from one student resonated with me like no other; she said, “We have a right to life, and if that’s constantly threatened then what the hell are we doing.” We as students have the right to live and to feel safe and to have that feeling of safety shattered scares many people.

Scared students is not something to be taken lightly. With Tech’s history of students who suffer from mental illness, there should be more of an outreach to those who have been affected the past few months from the toxic messages of hate being spread across social media. As one speaker said “35 counselors for 30,000 students is not enough,” and as someone who has dealt with Tech’s mental health system I can say that it’s not enough. We need to be able to offer quick and effective therapy options for people; and we need long-term therapy options for those who need it, that doesn’t require them to wait weeks just for their next appointment.

This campus has a problem with treating issues within minority communities as if they don’t exist solely because the majority of this campus isn’t subjected to the same problems minority students face. Just because someone doesn’t understand why we are protesting or “complaining” about issues, it does not in any way make the problems of these communities any less real. No one has the right to say what is or is not happening to the minorities on campus if they have not been subjected to the hateful rhetoric these students are forced to face everyday.

We have a right to feel safe on the campus they expect us to call home. White supremacy has always and will always be an act of terrorism and to allow those ideals to poison the message of a “loving and inclusive Hokie Nation” is unacceptable. Until President Sands and the rest of the university administration decide to do what’s right and protect the students who feel marginalized, unsafe and unwanted, we must keep fighting. We will use the voices they tell us are so important, regardless of how many times we are told it “isn’t the right time or place.” If now is not the right time, then when is? How many more times do students have to fight and protest to get the administration to stop putting money and politics before the well-being of their students in need? It’s time for Tech to make a change, and that time is now.

Event coverage by WSLS includes an interview with students on campus during the March Against White Supremacy, viewable here. For reference, a map of the march is depicted along with a few photos taken during the rally. 

Stand up for what is right. Our voices matter. 

Image Sources: Gif from giphy.com

Photos credited to the author.