Many of us watched from afar with fear, anxiety, disgust, and anger this past weekend as white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, VA. People of color and their allies fell victim to numerous acts of extreme violence and yes, domestic terrorism. The rally’s speakers revealed their cowardice even as they tried to hide it in openly racist and bigoted hate-speech.
As the day’s events unfolded, the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency in response to the violence. Counter-protests ultimately led to physical altercations between opposing sides, clashes with police, and a vile act of brutality when a 20-year-old man drove a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, leaving five in critical condition, and numerous others injured.
We grieve for the dead, the injured, the many who suffered physical, psychological and spiritual injuries in this latest battle of the United States’ never-ending Civil War.
We grieve that the president of the United States cannot bring himself to offer a full-throated condemnation of white nationalism.
We grieve that many people of faith believe that God is on side of white nationalism. That our faith communities believe that God is not on the side of the truly oppressed.
Here in Boston it may seem to some like we are far from the world of white supremacy and white nationalist demonstrations. Yet people of color know that these sentiments are here, they are real, and they are very close to the surface. Many of us encounter small acts and attitudes of white supremacy every day — in the streets of Boston and in halls of the Academy. While our nation as a whole prepares for more of these alt-right rallies, we will have our own to contend with in Boston on August 19th, operating under the name “Boston Free Speech.” But this kind of speech is anything but free. It comes with a terrible cost for the targets of this movement’s hate and fear. It is intended to silence, demean, subdue and extinguish the voices of The Other. It is meant to further disenfranchise marginalized groups, especially black, brown and Jewish Others.
As the Students of Color student interest group at the School of Theology we represent numerous ethnic, racial, religious, spiritual, and cultural Others in the academy. We know and understand the toxicity of white supremacy in our own lives. As such:
- We dedicate ourselves to embracing the reality that as people of color our existence as a collective may be seen as offensive or unnecessary or even a personal affront. We will continue to assert our right to exist, and to engage and empower our communities.
- We dedicate ourselves to speaking as prophets, to condemning racism in all its forms, to proclaiming truth all the louder when representatives of white supremacy want to silence us.
- We dedicate ourselves to continuing to create and advocate for spaces where persons of color feel safe and supported as they navigate not just academia but our current social and political climate. We are the stones the builders rejected, but we will be the capstones of our beloved communities.
To ensure the atmosphere of support and solidarity that we have worked so hard for at the School of Theology continues to thrive in the wake of this event — and following foreseeable events in the future — we invite the School of Theology and Boston University to show support for its students, faculty, and staff of color by joining us in the following:
- To openly condemn both the recent Charlottesville “Unite the Right” and upcoming “Boston Free Speech” rallies as deplorable and appalling and to assert the principles of Boston University that affirm the worth of all members of the BU community, regardless of race, ethnicity, country of origin, citizenship status, economic status, religion, gender, sexuality, age, or ability.
- To continue to be vigilant and alert to changes in our social and political climate. To remain present to the issues that arise on the national stage and how those issues affect all members of our community: students, staff, faculty, and their families.
- To be present. Show up, be visible, speak out, speak up. Call out systemic racism and oppression as issues arise. Hold each other accountable. We ask our white colleagues to condemn racism in your own communities, even when it may be awkward and uncomfortable. Speak up even if you may lose friends or favor or even your jobs. We do not ask you to take on any risks that we do not assume ourselves merely by existing.
- To foster dialogue and conversations around race and privilege. Don’t shut down opposing views but allow for questions to be asked, mistakes to be made, and corrections to be voiced.
These small actions will speak louder than any rally. May we show true solidarity not just with our speech but our actions, as well.
The Boston University School of Theology Students of Color