If you found yourself at the Central Campus Transit Center, also known as the C.C. Little bus station, last Monday, perhaps you were dismayed your normal bus had been rerouted. If you found yourself walking through the Diag, perhaps you were confused by the crowds of people surrounding a man kneeling at the block ‘M.’ These two protests in response to recent racist incidents on campus intentionally disrupted the normal flow of everyday life at the University of Michigan. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board is fully supportive of these protests; they challenged the routine of everyday life, called attention to the hostile climate caused by acts of racism and made the issues at hand accessible to the wider campus and Ann Arbor community.
Last week’s protests were effective precisely because they were disruptive. It is not every day that the Diag is populated with dozens of students for hours on end, some holding umbrellas to block the heat and others delivering food and water. The students who blocked the intersections of bus routes near the C.C. Little bus station sought to parallel the “inconveniences” racism and microaggressions pose for students of color on a daily basis. Though their protest lasted merely an hour, they had an impact that “inconvenienced” a large proportion of campus.
Intentionally disruptive student protests are some of the most effective ways to enact much-needed change on our campus and beyond. And in cases such as these, the nature of the disruption conveyed the message of the protest, especially to student demographics who otherwise would not understand the disruptions students of color on campus deal with regularly.
As such, these types of visible protests not only force passersby to think about the issues the protests are addressing, but they also start important conversations. When routine is broken, students question what is going on, seek more information and have discussions with peers. Furthermore, as an Editorial Board, we believe the fact that these protests began various discussions and debates about the issues the protests sought to address and whether their protest tactics were effective meant they made the issues at hand at least visible.
Protests are a critical step that goes beyond simply the desire for change. Substantial positive change requires more than an email from the administration condemning hateful actions and standing in solidarity with those affected. Emails are all well and good, but they can be brushed aside, archived and, quite frankly, ignored. Protests are exponentially more visible and powerful tools to enact change because they are much more difficult to ignore.
Human bodies and minds making observable calls to action can influence and inspire communities and individuals to discuss the issues and act, and it is our responsibility to support and encourage protesters in their work.