We, the black students from the football field jail would like to set the record straight on where Eastern Michigan University stands in regards to protest. This letter serves as a reflection on the events of Friday September 23, 2016 at the EMU football game. All that transpired before, during, and after through the eyes of black students.
On Tuesday of last week our campus was attacked, but more than that a specific skin color was called to be out of place. What you must understand is that this is nothing new for us, but came as a shock on such a “diverse” campus. This calls into question what the administration is doing, not only to offer comprehensive programs, classes, and spaces challenging racism, but what it is doing to ensure its students do not hold such biases comfortably.
Every other day it seems there is a new black body formed into a hashtag, and every week it seems there is a video to accompany the murder. All this is coupled with a lifetime of injustice, untreated trauma, and buried history.
When those words were painted on the wall, it was less about the wall or the words, but mostly the comfort it took to create such art on a public space. It was not some shocking egregious act, rather a reminder of what we have always known, what we have always experienced. We learned then that EMU was not so different from the United States.
The university got wind of a potential protest, and rather than standing in solidarity with its students or providing space for them to speak out, they passed out flyers at the entrance to remind us just how far we could go without arrest, and or dismissal from the university. Instead of meeting protesters (read: students) with listening ears and an open mind, EMU called in every police officer it could to squash any disruption that might interfere with a football team. Rather than announcing the injustice or providing a space for the people in the stands to hear us out, our diverse university kept the band as well as both football teams in the locker room during the national anthem to “protect” them from a threat of disruption. Hasn’t this always been the narrative though?
It is not clear what was intended before arriving at the football game, but after being screened with various forms of ID, after being watched for 120 minutes by armed police officers, after being separated and silenced from protesting a national anthem that is now popularly being peacefully used to protest injustice, the university chose to treat a protest as a bomb threat. President Smith gave direct orders for people, students, grieving students to be arrested if they moved any further in grass, which was not prohibited in any outline of the restrictions. President Smith, in an interview, stated how the university supports our efforts, but he along with most of his administrative staff have yet to even publicly affirm that #BlackLivesMatter. Not to mention how he personally gave the order of arrest if students made a move he did not approve of. Meanwhile we navigate a campus suspicious, and afraid that whoever painted that wall is sitting next to us, or much worse, running our university.
We contend that Black Lives Matter.
We assert our rights to peacefully speak out against injustice.
We proclaim that the protests will continue, indefinitely.
A Black Student.