1. Why is the #blacklivesmatter movement important?
Emerald: Though it is debatable what specific event sparked the establishment of #blacklivesmatter as a distinct social movement, this movement is essential because it works to end not only state-sanctioned violence against innocent, unarmed black people, but it also works to bring awareness to the ways in which systematic oppression directly impacts the lived experiences of black folks. This includes lack of educational resources in inner-city, predominantly black neighborhoods, lack of access to proper healthcare as well as the reality of environmental racism.
Chadwick: #blacklivesmatter is important because many have been hoodwinked into believing that we live in a post-racial society. After the election of President Obama, folks from all across the globe claimed that racism was no longer a barrier in the lives of black folks. This movement works against that narrative by showing that racism is still a very real factor in the lives of black people in the United States.
2. Why do protesters inconvenience people as a tool of resistance?
Emerald: Thinking back to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, the disruption of systems or businesses, particularly those that involve the state or government anyway, tend to garner more attention. This is especially true because using inconvenience or civil disruption as a tool of resistance also involves or disrupts the flow of money, and we all know that capitalism/money has literally been the driving force behind this country since Europeans first colonized this land.
Chadwick: It is actually plain and simple: black people are inconvenienced every day due to learning about new acts of violence toward folks they do and do not know. Whether that is a new victim of police brutality, black women being forced off of a train because they were “too loud” or their fellow black C.O.W. student walking down Beall Ave. while having the n-word shouted at them. Protesters want the majority to experience a small fraction of this inconvenience because they are the ones who hold the “power” that is needed to change the system.
3. How can we as student leaders work to improve the lived experiences of black folks on this campus?
Emerald: From my personal experience, it has been extremely difficult to know that there is an obligation that I have as a black woman on this campus to ensure that folks like me feel comfortable, seen and welcomed here. However, to make sure that this is possible and to ensure that those that come after me experience the best version of this campus that they can, it is imperative that I continue to call out the system when I know it is falling short. It is important that I challenge those who are choosing to ignore and invalidate my experience and the experiences of those like me. Also, organizing events that provide the broader campus community the opportunity to learn about these experiences and to figure out how we can make it better collectively. It’s most important to remember that silence is violence.
4. Why is the support of administration important to enhance our movement on campus?
Chadwick: As I said earlier folks who hold power are the ones who are able to change the system. On our campus that is literally the administration. Students can influence the way their peers think, but the administration has the power to change the actions of students. The support of the administration can move students from simply thinking and talking about social justice in the classroom to actually working against anti-black racism in our world.
Emerald Rutledge and Chadwick Smith, Contributing Writers for the Voice, can be reached for comment at ERutledge17@wooster.edu and CSmith17@wooster.edu.