My senior sociology thesis is on the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM). The focus of the thesis is gauging Bates students’ perceptions of BLM to see if they stem from what sociologists term “color-blind racism.” Gauging Bates students’ perceptions of BLM is particularly relevant in this current moment because of the protest of racism that has been happening on college campuses across the country.
Since the protest in Ferguson, this country has seen an uprising of people from all different races standing in solidarity for the humanity of Black people. The Department of Justice’s reports conducted by the federal government revealed that people in Ferguson rallied and mobilized around the death of Michael Brown because the police department had racist attitudes toward the people in that community, which led to the Black citizens of Ferguson not trusting the police. The strong unrest in Ferguson and the community mobilization around Black Lives Matter created a national platform for citizens across the country to stand in solidarity against any act or form of racism and White supremacy.
Black students that have felt like their humanity and their civil rights have been attacked at college institutions like Missouri, Yale, Ithaca, etc., are rising and standing for their rights because they know that their lives matter. The color of their brown skin should not give White students reason to degrade their humanity. It also should not be the reason institutions fail to proactively respond to racist incidents that have been happening on college campuses for decades. Black students have become less tolerant of constantly being treated as if they are the “other.” In the classroom, Black students as the minority find themselves placed in situations where they feel they are responsible for being the voice for the entire Black community. It is in majority White spaces, like Bates College, that they have to constantly endure the subconscious racist comments and thinking that saturate the hearts, minds and voices of fellow White students. These issues hit close to home for me because I am a Black student who attends a predominately White institution. I have listened to the experiences of other Black students that have attended Bates in the past and in the present, and found that they have felt that their intellectual abilities have been questioned by White professors. I also know from firsthand experience that Black students deal with constant micro-aggressions that undermine their beauty and their intellectual prowess which makes them in turn question their self-worth.
America is a country that has not only presently but historically terrorized Black humanity. As a nation, we are so afraid to confront our past and recognize that we are a county that has privileged and given access to quality jobs, education, and housing to White people at much higher and disproportionate rates than it has to Black people. White people also have never had to question their worth because of their race. White students, faculty, and staff members at Bates College should urgently seek to understand that they are privileged because of their race, which does not mean that they are pompous and pretentious, although they sometimes can be consciously or subconsciously nasty toward Black students. This privilege stems from a history of White supremacy in America since its inception. Black people have had to reside in a country that has shown them legislatively and also through the mass media that they don’t matter and this has resulted in a modern day grassroots movement whose sole purpose is to affirm that Black lives do matter.
Black students on college campuses have grown tired of White supremacy and the ways in which it has taken root on their campuses. At the University of Missouri students felt like nothing significant was being done to rid that campus of racism so that Black students can feel safe at their own school. The Black student response was to mobilize and make their voices heard and it led to action. We are no longer living in a time where Black people will settle for business as usual. Black people now recognize their power and understand that their voices do matter when they stand in solidarity against a White supremacist culture. The Black Lives Matter Movement is more than just a phrase and a moment, but it is a call to action. It is a call to action for Black people no matter how they identify to affirm their own lives and love themselves in spite of living in a culture that tells them otherwise. It is also a call to action for White folks to be cognizant of their privilege and power so that they can mobilize it instead of feeling guilty. Rather than feeling guilty, my fellow White citizens should educate themselves about the power of privilege and use that power to be a part of this movement to liberate Black life in America. Until America is cleansed of racism, I echo the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from so long ago, “We will not be satisfied.”