Racial Protest 1

MU Participates in Racial Protest

Nearly 100 students at Monmouth University peacefully protested in the wake of the events at University of Missouri on Thursday, Nov. 12.

The protest began around 10:30 a.m., on the steps of Wilson Hall. It turned into a march that made its way around campus, past both academic and residential buildings, and going through the student center food court and the dining hall. The protest went on throughout the day with several more marches taking place and going around the campus.

Students held banners and signs with phrases such as “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” “black lives matter,” and “we will not tolerate racial injustice.” Other signs had hashtags that have become popular in the last few days, such as “#concernedstudent1950” and “#FireTimWolfe.” Students and professors alike marched together, chanting phrases such as “Black lives matter,” and “MU For Mizzou.” A third chant called for an end to racial inequality.            

Solidarity marches such as these have been taking place all over the country in protest to the racial biases and tensions at  the University of Missouri. Black students at the college believe that the university leaders are failing to address the acts of racial bias and intimidation. On Monday, the president of the university, Tim Wolfe, resigned after members of the school football team refused to practice or play, and students threatened to boycott classes. Other schools, such as Yale University and Ithaca College, staged marches and walkouts.

The Monmouth University protest was organized mainly by graduate student Sarah Olson. On Nov. 11, she received an email from the Black Tribune, written by Ravyn Brooks, calling for college students to respond to the problems at University of Missouri and host solidarity marches and protests on their campuses, making it a national day of action. Olson then forwarded that email to professors on campus. That message was then relayed to students, leading to a turnout of nearly one hundred people.

“Basically, I’m pissed off about this stuff still going on and being tolerated,” she said, when asked why she decided to organize the event on such short notice. “It pisses me off that this is being tolerated.”

Racial Protest 2Several different clubs were present at the protest. There were members of the Gender Studies Club, HawkTV, the Social Work Club, SGA, the African American Student Union, and the AKA sorority present, SAGE, alongside many others. The march was covered by media outlets such as the Asbury Park Press and NBC News.

“I was absolutely pumped about the student and faculty turnout and media coverage of the event,” said Olson. “I reached out to everyone late on Wednesday night and kind of thought it was a long shot that we would get anything together by the morning. With everyone’s help and enthusiasm we were able to put together something really special and that was so exciting.”

“I was shocked by the publicity the march received,” said Jamiyah Bethune, a senior health and physical education major. Bethune was also involved in the organization of the protest, inspired after seeing the problems at Mizzou and seeing the reactions from other campuses.

She, like Olson, wanted to show that racial injustice would not be tolerated on campus. “Not only did we receive massive support from the students, but we had a lot of faculty members show up as well. It made me proud to be a student here at Monmouth. People were genuinely passionate about the march and they were not going to let the rain stop them,” said Bethune.

While the number of those participating fluctuated throughout the day, it remained between fifty and one hundred students and faculty members, despite the cold and damp weather. Provost Moriarty was also in attendance at the beginning. Several other faculty members were present as well.

Johanna Foster, the director of the sociology and gender studies program, and one of the faculty members who helped organize the event, pointed out the problems of being unwilling to acknowledge racism even in the modern day.

“I think many white folks are unwilling to admit how virulent racism still is in our country, both in the obvious vicious forms and in seemingly colorblind institutional arrangements,” she said. “Student protests like this do the good work of trying to force us out of a pernicious denial of this painful reality. There is clearly so much to be done, but as a community of learners, we could at least start by trying to truly understand what it means to say that social systems are organized unfairly by race and ethnicity, and this benefits many white people regardless of whether or not they are aware of it or condone it.” 

“Everyone matters, but you’re not the ones dying,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous, talking about the Black Lives Matter movement (several students had signs with the phrase written across them, and it was one of the chants shouted by the marchers). “You’re not the ones being targeted.”

According to Janice Stapley, a professor of psychology who was present during the march, she has never seen a student protest like this on campus before. “I think it raises awareness,” she said, praising the protest and the students who helped organize it. “It sends a message to the students that aren’t aware enough to come out.” Stapley said that the only protest she has seen on campus similar to this one was a “die-in” that was staged following a school shooting.

Several students expressed hope that this protest would have an impact on the University campus, and make people more aware of what was going on in the world around them.

“It felt good to express my opinion towards the issue since I can’t directly go out to the families and do anything for them,” said Jarius Bridges, a junior music major who was present at the march. “I think it impacted the Monmouth community by making them more aware of what’s going on in the world.” 

“I think that it will be very impactful, because a lot of people will see us, and they will be interested, and they will ask ‘what’s going on?’” said Mariah Toussaint, a senior health studies major who was present at the march. “If something like this never happened, they would never know, so I think it’s a good idea, because we’re letting other people know, and other people will come, and they’ll be interested, and maybe they’ll want to join in. It’s just a good cascading domino effect.”

“The fight doesn’t stop today,” said Bethune. “We did a great job but we are not done. I’m going to continue to stand against racial injustice, and I hope that students at Monmouth will continue in their efforts to support the movement for equality.”

PHOTO COURTESY of  Jamilah McMillan