To provide a space to debrief and reflect after the #StopSpencer Week of Action, organizers hosted a Community Conversation Friday night at the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, with about 30 students in attendance. At the event, attendees voiced their thoughts and concerns about the prospect of white supremacist Richard Spencer speaking on campus.
For most of the event, organizers divided attendees into six small groups for discussions led by #StopSpencer organizers.
One LSA senior, who was an organizer with #StopSpencer and asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, viewed the event as an opportunity to support one another and reflect.
“The intention is to have food, give people a space to heal and process what they’re feeling with the potential of Spencer coming,” the student said.
While #StopSpencer is primarily focused on the prospect of Spencer visiting and speaking, the coalition is also fighting against racist acts, in general, at the University of Michigan.
“This growing understanding that we’re not just fighting the potential of Richard Spencer coming to campus; we’re addressing white supremacy that exists on campus on a daily basis,” the student said.
In an email, LSA senior Hoai An Pham, the press liaison for #StopSpencer, wrote she disagrees with a belief held by the administration that Spencer’s speech will unite students in resistance.
“The oppression of other people happens on a regular basis, whether Richard Spencer is coming to campus or not,” Pham wrote. “We should not need an actual white supremacist in town to remind us to stand together — allies need to do a better job of being active and remaining united with marginalized people on a daily basis.”
While the Week of Action may have formally concluded, according to Pham, the work of organizers is far from over.
“I am hoping that we can continue to raise awareness of this issue and ensure student safety,” Pham wrote. “We are only students, and the burden of protecting ourselves should be shouldered by the administration. We are hoping that they will take this responsibility, and take strides to deny Spencer, and actively fight white supremacy.”
Another LSA senior and organizer who also asked to remain anonymous, recognized even for more experienced activists, dialogues like these can be helpful especially in divisive political climates.
“For a lot of people, this is their first time being involved in these conversations and even if this wasn’t the first time that they were involved, it’s always a new situation,” the student said. “Not many of us have experienced dealing with Nazis, fortunately, or the threat thereof.”
Additionally, several students expressed confusion, and sometimes frustration, with students who seem apathetic, or concerned but not actively protesting.
“I think a lot of students and people in general think that it’s too late to join something like this after it gets going, but it’s the opposite,” the second student said. “We always want to build capacity.”