In response to the false reports of an active shooter on campus and the Islamophobic terrorist attack in New Zealand, the editors of Michigan in Color would like to voice our commitment to supporting people of color and social justice on campus. We demand the University take concrete actions to support those affected by yesterday’s events, especially the Muslim community.
First, we want to recognize Michigan in Color is a part of The Michigan Daily, which propagated false information yesterday that may have added to the stress and trauma of yesterday’s events, and we want to emphasize Michigan in Color is still a reliable and supporting space for voices of people of color. We encourage people of color to use Michigan in Color as a platform to heal from traumatic events today and every day.
To white students:
It’s important to recognize this event is more impactful to certain communities than others, specifically PoC communities and the Muslim community. Though we are lucky there wasn’t an active shooter yesterday, to many PoC, the fear of targeted gun violence is not unfamiliar. Thus, the events that took place yesterday aren’t something to take lightly or to make jokes about. To many students, this attack felt like it was targeting their identities, specifically Muslim students, because this event happened at the same time as a vigil for victims of the New Zealand Mosque shooting.
Further, in today’s day and age, PoC are constantly faced with news of their brothers and sisters being killed specifically for their identities, so the tangible fear of being killed or harmed is continuously deepened and solidified. It’s a fear we live with every day so the trauma evoked isn’t something that dissipates along with the actual threat –– it actually only makes the reality that this could happen to us more real.
Being complacent in harmful conversations that take the incident lightly, further perpetuates the marginalization and silencing of these PoC experiences. It is important to stand in solidarity with PoC experiences and recognize how this incident affects them differently.
To all students, we want to emphasize how detrimental it can be when misinformation is spread. Much more chaos and harm were caused yesterday because of the amount of misinformation spread within group chats. The rampant spread of rumors was due to a lack of information from police and officials, but in a time such as this we need to be responsible in how we share information. For example, in such a situation we should not be spreading unconfirmed rumors from group chat to group chat to prevent people from taking rumors as facts. We need to hold each other responsible and take actions to shut down rumors that will create more chaos.
To other PoC communities on campus:
Michigan in Color remains as a safe space for the Muslim community and other communities of color to process, cope with and address the incidents both on campus and in New Zealand this past week. We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community and encourage other communities of color to offer support to the individuals directly involved and impacted by these events. Living under the global power structure of whiteness, it is our responsibility as people of color to empower one another and empathize with those who struggle with adversity and discrimination so as not to perpetuate further fear and trauma. We must practice extreme compassion, empathy and accountability during these times that may compromise our ability to collectively connect, understand and heal. While the attendees and participants of yesterday’s New Zealand Mosques Solidarity Vigil were not all Muslim-identifying or people of color, the heavier and long-lasting trauma befalls upon those communities who are at greater risk of target in these uncontrolled situations, especially given the community’s recent global events. This is a community commitment we must all participate in to prevent Islamophobia, white supremacy and gun violence and ensure the safety and freedom of the Muslim community and other communities of color.
If you feel so inclined to respond to and take further action against the rampant discrimination displayed in recent events, Michigan in Color invites individuals and communities of color to use our platform as a means for further reconciliation and healing.
To University of Michigan administration:
As stated earlier, students of color have a deeply held fear of being the targets of violence due to our respective racial, cultural and religious identities. The vast majority of domestic terror attacks are carried out by white men and many of those are carried out in the name of “far right-wing” (read: white nationalist) ideology against racial minorities. The University is actively complicit in the spread of these racist ideas on campus. By hosting speakers such as Ben Shapiro and Charles Murray who espouse openly racist views under a thin guise of science and factualism and paying for their security (running upwards of half a million dollars), the University is effectively condoning their views. The University claims these events are in the name of free speech, but the hateful rhetoric espoused and absorbed by our students causes actual physical and psychological danger to the students it targets. The University of Michigan has the second highest rates of hate crimes out of all universities surveyed in 2017, and the number of reported hate crimes has been steadily on the rise. This, coupled with the already raised tensions from the tragic shootings in New Zealand in which 50 Muslim worshippers were murdered by a white supremacist who praised Donald Trump in a manifesto, contributes to an atmosphere of fear on campus among all students of color and Muslim students especially. For the University to express concern for the trauma all students experienced yesterday without explicitly expressing support for the Muslim community is ignorant at best, or malicious at worst, toward the well-being of its Muslim students. Additionally, any apology or expression of support for students of color affected by physical and emotional violence is an empty gesture while the University is still complicit in the dissemination of a white supremacist narrative on campus. The University needs to do better by its students of color, which means acknowledging and understanding our perspective and disavowing and not giving a platform to white supremacy.
To security and police forces:
As students we put our trust in you to inform and protect us from all potential threats of harm, both unconfirmed and confirmed. While we recognize ensuring the safety of an entire campus is difficult to maintain, we feel that the miscommunication and handling of the reports fueled unneeded paranoia and panic. Attendees of the vigil especially faced trauma, largely unbearable, due to the lack of consistent information available. Many ran for our lives as we hid in various places across campus waiting for updates that came slowly and inconsistently. Your failure to inform us in a timely manner augmented the trepidation. As we waited for critical information on how to best prepare, where to go, and if and when the threat was controlled, we feared the inevitability of losing our lives at the hands of another white supremacist.
In addition to the trauma inflicted on the student body at large, it is important to underscore the additional pain experienced by students of color, who are often disproportionately affected by police actions. Historically, PoC communities have been plagued with traumatic and high-tension relationships with police institutions. However, as students we are encouraged to regard police confirmations and actions as the most factual and strongest guides to safety. Thus, it is within the intersection of these two realities that the lack of police preparation and response has inflicted additional harm to students of color. It is both irresponsible and disrespectful to call on the trust of students of color, which has historically and contemporarily been compromised, and fail at acting with the utmost sense of responsibility and calculation. The inability for police to deal with this matter effectively has further compromised the faith of students of color in first-responders to keep us safe. Specifically, students contend delayed alerts and unorganized building clearance are some of the top contributors to student trauma.
To remedy the effects of this event, we demand University administration, the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security, U-M Police Department and Ann Arbor Police Department strategize a cohesive, all-encompassing procedure that arms students with life-saving action steps. We expect these institutions to facilitate annual active-shooter training for all students either virtually or in person. Additionally, we demand these institutions develop more effective and timely channels for information sharing. Throughout the crisis, students relied on unverified information channels, including word of mouth, social media and group chats, for the guidance that would guarantee the best chance at survival. Consequently, the mass reliance on unofficial and unconfirmed sources is a direct result of the University’s delayed alert systems and ineffective information channels.
Lastly, we call on the mentioned institutions to reach out directly to students, especially Muslim students, to mend harmed relationships and gather student input for action steps moving forward.
To the Muslim community:
We want to recognize that this experience is most traumatic for people in the Muslim community, and that we are standing in solidarity with you and will fight against Islamophobia alongside you. The atmosphere at the vigil for the victims from the Christchurch Mosque shootings was already tense in preparation for a possible discourse. The Muslim community does not deserve this additional stress and recurrent vigilance to simply exist. If you need to express your feelings at this time and would like a space to do so, Michigan in Color is always available for you. We also urge you to prioritize your mental health at this time, and reach out to necessary resources such as Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as asking for academic accommodations (i.e., exam/assignment extensions) from professors if needed.
If you are seeking professional help in healing from yesterday’s events, we urge you to visit the CAPS website.
If you are interested in sharing your voice through Michigan in Color, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.