The Mission and Philosophy of Students4Justice
Students4Justice is a group specifically created as a coalition for students of color, by predominately Black and brown students. Initially, given the current campus climate, we mainly focused on anti-Black racism on campus, but our efforts go beyond anti-Black racism and bring together students of color who are affected by the lack of inclusivity of this campus.
Our mission is to build coalitions with groups of students of color, always acknowledging the anti-Blackness that can occur in non-Black student of color spaces, and to combat racism at this institution. How do we give voice to students?
There seems to be a misunderstanding that we, as Students4Justice, wish to speak on behalf of the Black community (in this case, any community of students of color). To dispel those beliefs, we operate under a system in which we believe it is not our job as Black students, as students of color, to present the administration with just one avenue to create change. Speaking specifically as a queer Black woman, I can say that the Black community is in no way a monolith, and that even with majority of Black cis/straight people agreeing on what the community needs, that leaves room for further marginalized Black folks to not have their voices heard.
What we believe in is a paradigm shift. Students4Justice is not fighting for a seat at the table with a limited number of chairs, we are fighting for a table with an infinite amount of seats. We, as students of the University of Michigan, create the seats and it is the administration's job to follow our lead.
Now this method may seem as if it lacks the concreteness of previous movements, but it does provide a different route than previously tried before. With our demands such as “create a space for Black students and other people of color without white students, before the launch of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan,” we are trying not to speak on behalf of Black students or any other students, but demanding that the administration does more to give voice to students beyond identified student leaders.
Outside of the reality that unifying is fighting for our voices to be heard, the demand for unity demonstrates an expectation that we have to have one voice in order to make change. The problem is we do not operate with one voice. Asking the administration to do a better job at inserting itself into the communities of students of color and requesting they bridge the gap themselves creates the potential for a more in tune, interconnected and institutional change.
The reality is that the idea of us needing to have one set of demands even within our respective communities, when we are thousands of different students, by nature allows for the administration and for members of our own communities to continuously silence voices of students.
How else do we create an intersectional movement and have intersectional change without tokenizing students of color, if the administration is not coming to us?
Our goal has never been to make decisions for any group of students, but to fight for ways that help bridge the gap between administration and students of color, demand accountability from the administration and create continuous engagement with students of color and the administration.
When University President Mark Schlissel says the only way we can make change is by working together, I wholeheartedly agree. The difference is our working together has to be on the terms of the students and not the administration.