This past Monday, USG’s Justice Now speaker series began with Angela Davis in the event Abolition Movements in the 21st Century. While Dr. Davis spoke at length about the strategy and justification of abolishing police, prisons and nation states, her lecture also extensively covered the intersectionality of different identities in the struggle for freedom among other topics.
Today, the awareness and terminology of social issues may be co-opted by persons and institutions of all motives. Given this, the Justice Now initiative is a perfect example of how student leadership on campus can organize towards substantial, non-superficial racial education and change. Justice Now has not attempted to signal to our community that the Undergraduate Student Government or another campus group is a force for racial progress — it is an attempt to distribute to the student body the lifelong knowledge of experts such as Angela Davis, Iyasah Shabazz, Eddie Glaude Jr. and Martin Luther King III on the perspectives of marginalized community members. These are two very different efforts, and the latter deserves our great admiration.
The University of Connecticut is a large school with a student body comprising many different identities and perspectives, some of which are given far more consideration in policy than others. This situation is expected at a major institution of higher learning in a society where racism, alongside other violences, is institutionalized. However, this situation is not permanent or necessary and it is our greatest duty as able-bodied and minded members of the community, particularly white community members who do not suffer from institutionalized racism, to apply ourselves to the task of change.
Barring major and unlikely changes to society in the United States, here at UConn the student body itself will be one of the largest vehicles for change on campus. Unless student leaders, with support from the student body, can organize events such as these highlighting the unique and marginal perspectives of different community members, the student body will remain fragmented and unaware of the ways in which different groups can contribute to and suffer from social injustices. More so, inequities and injustices will continue unless non-marginal and white community members can make commitments to supporting and engaging with genuine projects of racial education.
Urgently, given the threats that White nationalism, sexism and other political dehumanizations pose to our community on campus and the others we take part in, we must support initiatives like the Justice Now initiative which center on Black and other marginal voices. Further, the White segments of the student body particularly must undertake personal investment and commitment to this education, and incorporate these findings into changed behavior. Injustice has never been ended by thought alone but by informed action and sacrifice.
We should thank the student leaders who organized the initiative and hosted Monday’s event, and we should diligently progress further the state of racial awareness and action on campus by following in the footsteps of those who make this initiative possible.