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What Resistance and Allyship Look Like: Students Demonstrate At/For C of C

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | March 13, 2019 | No Comment |

Students on the Cistern, Friday, March 8th.

Many people within and beyond the South don’t know enough, or don’t want to know enough, to recognize the horrors of slavery and the shame it still brings upon us all. That was proven once again last week, when some C of C students posted a video they’d recorded while on a class trip– laughing about slavery, having fun making racist comments, then sharing them with the world. These students have embarrassed us all, but other C of C students have made us proud. One day after the video made the news, students organized a protest on the Cistern, where they shared publicly the pain and anger they felt, not just in response to this recent incident, but to many others they’ve experienced as C of C students of color. As several of them said, when it was their turn with the microphone, “We’re tired.”

I emailed one student afterwards to find out which groups to thank for last Friday’s effort.  She told me, “The more general black student body is really who organized this event. The students . . . were acting simply as black students who attend this university. Leadership of the Black Student Union, Collegiate Curls, Human Rights Alliance, I-CAN, SGA, and various Non-Panhellenic Greek organizations just so happened to be the main people behind the organization and promotion of the event.” When I spoke to a few of these students on the street the same day, they weren’t taking much individual credit either. “It’s all hands on deck,” as one of them said. To all of you wonderful students, thank you for your solidarity and courage and determination. I hope we as an institution can be worthy of it.

Plenty of people here are trying. I was touched by an open letter from the SGA to the student body, written to “rebuke and condemn the racist messages of this video, and to let every student of color on this campus know that you do matter, that you do have a home here, where you are welcomed, valued and loved, and that we stand in solidarity with you against this vile and disturbing act of racism, that is so contrary to our values as an institution and to our common humanity.” We have a lot of work to do, though, to make those truths self-evident on our campus.

So let me commend the SGA and the student protestors for your heartfelt and timely response, and let me record one more note, to myself and anyone else who wishes to be an ally. When the students stood on the Cistern calling for meaningful action in response to racist incidents, they were not just talking to College administration. “I really appreciate y’all for being here today,” one protestor said to the many white students, faculty and staff in attendance, “I love y’all, but let me just tell you something. Check your people.”

When racism and its attendant stupidities and cruelties show themselves confidently, it harms us all. It’s on us—especially those of us who are white–to protest, out loud.

C of C students gave us a master class last week. Thanks, y’all.

–Julia Eichelberger, Professor of English, directs the Program in Southern Studies and serves as an Executive Board member for the College’s new Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston.  

Supporters of March 8 student walkout and protest against racist video other students made & shared on social media

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