On Friday night, Kemper Auditorium overflowed with students participating in a community forum held in light of the recent verdicts not to indict the police officers involved in both Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s cases. The forum, facilitated by coordinators of the More Than Just a Number movement, Out of the Blue, Afro-Latino-American Society, Alianza Latina and MOSAIC alongside members of the faculty and administration, provided students and faculty alike with a safe space to discuss police brutality, racial bias by the United States Department of Justice and other issues surrounding the case.
It is crucial to confront and delve deep into the complex state of race relations in our nation. I applaud the faculty and students who worked so hard and quickly to coordinate such an immediate and widespread response, as well as students who attended last Friday’s forum.
Being well aware of Andover’s fast-paced, work-oriented culture, however, I cannot help but fear that the urgency and passion to have these discussions and to work to make changes in our community and the world at large will soon be abandoned in the face of other seemingly pressing matters like grades and college admittances. This is something that it is imperative that we are cognizant of and constantly work against — we cannot let the issue of Ferguson and the race question in America fade into the background.
It is especially easy for those of us who are privileged not to be affected by racial violence to simply put it out of our minds, perhaps to never even think of it again. We can share a couple of articles on Facebook, spread around the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter” and discuss the unfair justice system in outrage with peers, but go on with our lives shortly thereafter.
We are too detached and fall into the trap of thinking about systemic racism as “someone else’s problem.” We listen to others’ experiences and feel compassion and injustice for our friends, peers, and teachers. But we believe that we are not needed, or that we are not wanted.
What everyone — at Andover, and beyond — should understand, however, is that people, regardless of skin color, can play a role in the battle for equality. There is always strength in numbers. It takes perseverance, dedication and true effort — but only when we work together to educate and change can prejudiced and unjust institutions be overthrown.
You may be wondering what you can do, as I know I was before attending the forum and before speaking with peers and teachers about Ferguson. And so, here are some suggestions:
1. Speak up in class and in dorms, and write. Make your voice heard. Avoid social media, as you are more likely to find yourself frustrated and ineffective. Discussions online can spiral out of control in ways that in-person conversations will not.
2. Educate yourself: awareness of these issues takes time, but can only inform your future actions and reactions.
3. Take the initiative to support what you believe in: protest, sign petitions and get others involved.
Ferguson is our problem, regardless of our race, gender, class, religion, sexuality, nationality or any other element of our identity: as the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If the United States continues to condone systemic and institutionalized oppression, it will never live up to the fundamental ideals on which it was founded: liberty, equality and justice.
_Sewon Park is a two-year Lower from Hong Kong._