The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan would first like to extend wholehearted condolences to the families of recent victims of police brutality: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, David McAtee and Tony McDade. However, our concerns and expressions are not limited to these victims as there have been countless instances of police abuse for as long as this country has existed. The most well-known are those from the past decade, where we have witnessed many unjust murders of Black folks at the hands of police. To name a few: Gabriella Nevarez, Mya Hall and Atatiana Jefferson. So, the questions we should ask ourselves are: How is it already 2020 with things having not substantially changed for the better? Also, how can we implement reform such that we do not find ourselves having this same discussion with our children?
Something has to give. It is time to bring those in positions of power to the table and demand that they affect change. This includes government officials who are elected to serve their constituents and the people in charge of our criminal justice systems. We are tired of performative acts that create the illusion that people care — it is time to take this seriously. Actions show us more than any amount of characters in a letter or words in a prayer. We condemn excessive police force targeted at those protesting the slaughter of Black bodies and believe they should be given the same privileges to peacefully protest as those who protested stay-at-home orders. Moreover, the deployment of military forces by President Donald Trump’s Administration, which is designed to disrupt those protesting the unequal treatment of Black folks in the U.S., is just another policy intended to set back this crucial movement. Additionally, we are disgusted by the way the media and our nation’s leaders have promoted the narrative that protesters are “thugs” who only intend to destroy property. Most protests around the nation have been non-violent displays of solidarity amongst oppressed, angry and empowered Black Americans and their allies. These overt displays of opposition to the forward progress of our cause are evidence of systemic and institutionalized racism and we will not tolerate it.
To make matters worse, Black Americans must deal with the trauma of police brutality in the midst of a global pandemic. The irony of the current state of our country and world is not lost on us. Although the pandemic and police brutality may seem unrelated individually, the impact that both have had on the lives of Black Americans is rooted in the same issue: systematic inequity and discrimination. At this time, we want to extend our deepest condolences to our community members and families who are mourning lost lives and suffering from increased health complications and associated costs. We encourage everyone to stay updated on the symptoms of COVID-19 and how it is spread.
No matter how you choose to respond to current events, you should feel empowered in whatever decision you make. Based on a history of student activism, we are confident that you all will make the best decision for yourselves and the larger community. The BSU will support you regardless of your response to current events. If you are choosing to protest in-person, help slow the spread of the virus by wearing face masks and maintaining social distance to ensure your health and safety. If you are choosing to protect your peace and practice self-care during this time, that too is enough. We invite you to raise any campus community concerns so that we can feel united even though we are apart.
Mindful of current events, we are committed to making sure we support students and uphold a sense of community throughout the summer with various short and long-term programs. First, we are launching a book club and sending out care packages. The book club will give community members an opportunity to delve into books written by Black authors and discuss their insights with other members. Care packages will relay a sense of closeness and compassion; we are all living under similar circumstances, so the care packages will be relevant. Second, we are planning around the possibility of student activism in the fall. In preparation, we are assembling a pamphlet on student rights as protesters. That way, all students have all information in accordance with city, county, state and University laws. Additionally, we are creating an executable action plan that will reduce the time between an issue that affects the community and the community’s response. To ensure effectiveness, the plan will include other community organizations. While these are small gestures, we hope they can foster a sense of connection in a seemingly disconnected world and make life a little more manageable.
The purpose of the BSU is to promote and sustain an atmosphere that is conducive to the political, cultural, social, spiritual, economic and educational growth of students of African descent and the University community-at-large. While we have outlined the steps we are and will take, we cannot accomplish our purpose without closing with a few things to be mindful of.
First, we are committed to our community. While we cannot and do not intend to speak on behalf of all Black students at the University, we maintain an unwavering commitment to improving their lives in all aspects.
Second, all forms of activism should be respected. Even if you do not agree with working on legislation, signing a petition or protesting, it is no mistake that there are an abundance of ways to be an activist. Rather than debating whose form of activism is best, understand that different forms are not mutually exclusive and should occur simultaneously.
Finally, do not forget the importance of intersectionality. Since Blackness is not monolithic, make sure that conversations, statements and action plans are produced through an intersectional lens. While police violence against Black men receives adequate news coverage, police violence against Black women, trans and gender-nonconforming folks are overlooked by the media. They seem to be left out of certain conversations, and that is far from inclusive. Even though intersectionality is more than race, gender and sexuality — being mindful of these identities is extremely important right now. ALL Black Lives Matter.
Peace, Love and Solidarity,
The authors of this piece include Kai Dotson, Trinity Pryor, Cydney Garner-Brown, Thomas Vance, Addey Ojo, Alexxus Lige, Janalee Robinson, Karla Bell, Kenneth Washpon, Nicholos Daniel, Raina Allen, Jasmine Williams, Jerome Law, Russell McIntosh, Solomon Lucy, Taylor Smith and Tihnae Bennett and all can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This statement is endorsed by The Michigan Daily’s Michigan in Color and Opinion sections.