We are truly experiencing a pivotal moment in American history. As we continue to recover from the residual impacts of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately affected minority groups and led to a economic downfall on a scale equivalent to that of the Great Depression, we have also been witnessing mass protests against racially motivated hate crimes throughout the country. These protests have been held for the unjust lynchings of innocent Black victims, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
These tragedies happen time and time again, because the system of racial domineering that puts people of color at a constant disadvantage, while placing particular races in a place of privilege, has not been hindered. This country’s jurisdiction dismisses the subjugation, exploitation and violence that disproportionately affect people of color, because of the unrestricted power it yields, and the unfair wealth distribution that further marginalizes people of color.
After centuries of state-sponsored violence against Black bodies, and after so many calls for systemic reform have fallen on deaf ears, we’ve decided enough is enough. The young Black generation, particularly college students who are in a more apt position to demand change, must eradicate systemic oppression and root out white supremacy everywhere.
Dillard University, Shaw University and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) have all formalized their respective institutions’ fight for civil rights. ABC-11, the ABC affiliate in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, reported that at Shaw University, the Center for Racial and Social Justice would host lectures, research and provide academic programs to combat racism and injustice. It would be in the best interest of other universities to follow suit and curate programs of their own that aid in dismantling the oppressive system.
“The rioting that occurred in Raleigh, around our state, and all over America, is a symptom of an illness that has gone untreated for far too long. Racism and injustice are the diseases, and if we look only at the symptoms, nothing will ever change,” said Shaw President Dr. Paulette Dillard in a statement about protests that broke out across the country after Floyd’s murder. In addition, Dillard noted the university’s standing as the oldest historically Black college and university (HBCU) in the South, and its involvement in social justice issues since its inception.
ABC News confirmed that the wave of bomb threats on the campuses of HBCUs during this past Black history month reawakened concerns about the increase of domestic terrorism in the United States, and its roots in white supremacy. Certain campuses, such as Howard University, received several bomb threats. Nearly two dozen HBCUs were targeted, prompting campus evacuations and several probes by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Many of us HBCU students and allies seek to find out what we can do at this moment. Obviously, with a deeply entrenched and complex issue such as systemic racism, there is no simple, straightforward solution. However, education and action lead to transformation, and while the process of creating a fairer and more just America will never cease, there are a few places we can begin.
Students can begin to take action by becoming a member and supporter of social activist groups like Color of Change, which has over 7 million members. The organization’s mission is to effectively address injustices in the world and fight against police brutality, while championing civil rights and advocating for racial justice on a global scale.
Allies of the movement can start by believing in Black people and promoting their agendas. For allies to truly engage in anti-racist work in their organizations, they must first begin internally. Engagement in both learning and unlearning is a constant. For those who believe they have already done work to understand their White privilege, remember that this work is never done. We must view ourselves as constant works in progress with learning mindsets committed to understanding how racism shows up, evolves and hides in our societies. Listen to the concerns and demands of Black activists in the community, and use your privilege to echo their calls for action and push their agendas to public officials.