Organizing the narrative: A message from student protesters

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 11:17pm

Michigan in Color is publishing this message on behalf of the group of students who organized the various acts of resistance and solidarity on campus. The press continues to cover their powerful demonstrations in a manner that they do not believe adequately reflects their intentions. As a result, Black voices are being de-centered and the community’s narrative and goals are being misrepresented or not represented at all.

The message is as follows:

We (as marginalized communities) are not a monolith:

It is the expectation of most that everyone in a group is supposed to react the exact same way to things that happen. This is not a reasonable expectation and often comes from an idea of white fragility, in wanting to see people react in the way that they can handle a group's rebellion against oppression.

These actions are not being done by an official student org, but by passionate students on this campus:

People were sharing some of the things that we did as being under the Black Student Union or other student orgs. We want to make it clear now that we are not currently affiliated with these orgs.

On Respectability:

Respectability politics is this idea that we must continue to be infinite educators as marginalized people to educate those who continue to traumatize us with their language and actions. People will often say that the “right”way to protest or organize looks like this. This is not something that we are planning to do in this space. If you wish to do that, that can be done somewhere else. We are not saying that there is a right or wrong way to protest. We, as organizers, however, have tried working under respectable means and have gotten little to no actual change. For that reason, the actions that we organize will not be organized in this manner. There are a lot of places for respectable activism to occur, but not enough spaces for radical actions. We are creating a space for radical actions. We just want to be in one accord.  

On leveraging our privileges and making spaces for marginalized voices:

As was seen in the protest yesterday, the goal was to have Black people be able to provide their voices and their perspectives over the perspectives of non-Black people of color and white people. At the same time, however, the support of non-Black people is extremely important, which is why we are so glad that there was a large turnout of non-Black folx. As Desmond Tutu says, “If you are silent in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

University of Michigan Diversity Peer Educator Vikrant Garg, a representative of Student 4 Justice