by Ashley Griffin
Photography courtesy of Ashley Griffin
Students, professors and Boston University community members came together Tuesday October 3 to discuss how different ethnic, cultural and religious groups can show solidarity. About 50 attended the forum, which covered topics such as the resurgence of Nazi symbols, the #TakeAKnee protests and the similarities of the historical mistreatments of different minority groups.
Professor Linda Heywood, the moderator of the event, said she wants students to bring to BU the same solidarity that she saw during the August counter-protest in Boston.
“We’ve got to bring that spirit to BU for all the communities,” said Heywood, a professor of History and African American Studies. “We are a BU community. We’ve got to be strong in terms of how we’re going to raise our voices and take away the divisions.”
Professor Takeo Rivera reminded the group that beginning and maintaining relationships of solidarity requires constant reexamination of those relationships.
“It requires us to examine potential differentials of power among groups that you are trying to ally with,” said Rivera, a professor of Modern and Contemporary Drama. “There’s an ethics to solidarity that has to be sort of constantly managed, renegotiated and it’s always sort of historically contingent to.”
Professor Ana Villarreal said that international solidarity is a key part of the conversation because every person comes with specific differing backgrounds, but the similarities of those individual fights for equality is a uniting force.
“We all have the struggles that are closest to our hearts,” said Villarreal, a professor of sociology. “There’s also the possibility of finding common ground with other struggles because then we see we are connected.”
When asked about the protest in Charlottesville, VA, Professor Ashley Farmer said that she was not shocked by the outburst.
“It should not come with shock to anybody that racist violence is kind of imbedded in the American nation state and the founding of it,” said Farmer, a professor of History and African American Studies. “I don’t want to suggest for one second that all of these forms of violence and white supremacy aren’t deeply imbedded in all of our institutions.”
To the same question, Sernah Essien (CAS ’18) said that the scarcity of overt, violent forms of racism in the U.S. has led some to believe that white supremacists no longer exist.
“So many people think that the legacy of white supremacy is now gone, now that we don’t see these burning crosses on every lawn,” Essien said. “But, this coming back to the outright racist violence was, I think, a shock to many people. But to a lot of people in this room, I think that it is something that we knew either was coming or was still very present.”
Attendee Lynae Bogues, a BU graduate student in the African American Studies Program, emphasized that everybody is part of the human race, and any differences that humans have add to the intersectionality in issues we all face.
“I think a novel idea that we have to understand is that there is one race. That’s the human race,” Bogues said. “Every branch off of it is an intersection in itself.”
Bogues added that the first step towards solidarity is having the patience and desire to hear the concerns of others.
“I think what needs to be done is people in all groups in all different sub-situations take time to understand,” Bogues said.
Attendee Ray Czwakiel (LAW ’94) said that many in his generation once believed the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fixed the issues of racism in this nation, but he has learned otherwise.
“What’s most interesting to me about this conversation is what we do with this opportunity now because so many of my counterparts, and even myself at times, felt like Martin Luther King came along, took care of everything, and now we’re all racially equal,” Czwakiel said. “It’s obvious now, and it was obvious to me along the way, that basically things are not equal.”
Heywood closed the forum with a call to action for students, saying that now is the time for young adults to start building the world that they want to live in.
“It’s your world. In the next twenty to thirty years, you’re going to be running it,” Heywood said. “So, what vision do you have for that world? Start cultivating it today.”