The Knight of Swords, and Anti-Racism Protestors
October 30, 2008 § 4 Comments
(Originally written March 31, 2008, for a previous blog.)
Some days I draw a random tarot card, with no question in mind but a thought to reflect on. Today I drew the Knight of Swords, and it was easy to see what it was pointing to: the recent “actively anti-racist” movement/protests on campus.
I might not always be so affected by students’ activist activities on campus. After all, I’m no longer a student here, and it’s amazing how little of the student beat I hear about. However, these students are effective at being heard — quite literally. One would have to be deaf to not hear the banging of pots and pans and plastic pails and rhythmic yet muddled protest chanting. Though they for the most part came from one area of the campus, we could hear them very clearly in our office halfway across campus, doors and windows shut, as if they were right next door.
They are pissed, they are semi-organized, and they are determined to be heard, though less determined, it seems, to garner support, facilitate dialogue, and change others’ apathy towards racism or ignorantly (or outwardly) racist behavior. Though organizing has been apparently in the works for months, to the detriment of many organizer’s schoolwork (some neglected academic responsibilities, others abandoned it altogether), yet they went public last Monday, as pissed and fired-up as anyone could be about such an infuriating topic.
On one hand, they have every right to be pissed. Everyone has a right to be pissed about racism and other forms of oppression and prejudice, especially students of color. I recognize that one the simplest and greatest privileges I have as a white person is that I can ignore racism every day, hell, I could be one of those “I don’t see color” types of people — whereas people of color will be reminded of it in a negative manner most or all days of their lives.
On the other hand, they are so pissed that they do not care who they offend, be they white (“Racist!”), a person of color (“Uncle Tom!”), or international student of any race or color (“If you’re not with us, well, we’ll say you are anyway!”) Indeed, I’ve heard complaints from all three groups, ranging from bullying tactics in informal discussions and debates to yelled-out insults while someone goes about their own business. They are pissed, and they are pissing everyone else off in the process. They are pissed, and they have abandoned reason, cooperation, tact, goodwill, compassion, and any form of unbiased behavior for which one fights to end racism.
And forget negotiations. In the middle of their last-minute meeting with the president and administration, on a day I believe he was supposed to be traveling but now everyone up top has changed any plans or agenda they had previous to this royally pissed-off group of students, they sent out an all-staff/faculty letter stating that the administration was being completely uncooperative and not taking them seriously. Clearly hours and hours of time preparing for and participating in meetings, while trying to negotiate with nearly twenty serious (and sometimes seriously insane and/or ignorant) demands, is yet another example of the administration being too busy to handle insignificant student concerns.
Last week I could actually feel my blood pressure rise just seconds after being reminded of them. Their antagonistic and bully-like behavior towards the community members of my beloved school aside, they presented a serious threat to my boyfriend’s sense of security. Working in the president’s office, he has been in the line of fire for a while, and since their actions have been exceedingly emotionally abusive, one can only wonder if the abuse will turn into physical violence.
Today, however, I am calmer, for the most part at least. I am trying to remember that all things pass, that they will not destroy my school because I have just enough faith in its current stewards of administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni to believe that it will not be destroyed so easily (though more faith than that, I cannot say). And I am also trying to keep things in perspective when considering this royally pissed group of students, whom I am royally pissed at: they are young, and they are trying to affect change with the best of intentions, and while I may not agree with their demands I agree in their cause. They are the Knights of Swords, careening to who knows what end with a noble cause propelling them ever-forward, even if their swords are brandished a little too wildly, flailing about with more passion than skill.