For Boston, For Boston, we sing our proud refrain. For Boston, For Boston, tis wisdom's earthly fane. For here all are one..
For here all are one...
These are the opening lines to Boston College's fight song 'For Boston,' the oldest fight song in college sports. But as of late, I haven't felt like BC is a place where here all are one.
On November 24th, a grand jury decided not to indict former police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who died from six rounds fired into his body.
On Wednesday, a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case, an unarmed black man who died from an applied chokehold. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide.
In September, a grand jury decided not to indict in the shooting of John Crawford III, an unarmed black man who was playing with a toy gun in Wal-Mart and was shot by police.
Two days before the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Tamir Rice, a 12-year old playing with a toy gun, was shot and killed by rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann. Loehmann was responding to a 911 call about a man pointing a gun at people in the park.
In times like this, BC has been a place where I could talk about my reservations with the police and justice system. And, most importantly, feel safe.
BC is a university I take so much pride in and always boast about. Sure, there are some things that can change about it. Maybe the history core could be improved. Maybe the cultural diversity requirement could actually mean something. But up until this week, I have never felt upset or ashamed about my university.
It has been a week and a half since the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Wilson. Since then, BC students have peacefully marched through campus, walked out of class with their hands up and held a town hall meeting to air grievances. On Thursday, protests continued when some students decided to cover their mouths with tape, on which was written the words "I Can't Breathe" in Sharpie marker.
I was one of those students. I got out of bed, took a shower, put on a black jacket, black pants and black shoes and taped my mouth shut. My roommate did the same. We walked out of our dorm and onto campus where conversation cut at the sight of our demonstration and glances were shared.
No one approached us in an unfriendly manner. No one said anything inappropriate. Everything was peaceful. Until we got to one of the academic halls on campus.
As we approached the doorway of the building, we noticed a piece of paper with the words "I Can't Breathe" taped to the door. As we began to bypass the sign, a facilities worker approached the paper and began to take it down. We looked at the worker, who was acting in accordance with the school’s policy on flyers, looked at the sign and let our taped mouths speak for themselves.
We weren't mad at the worker. The policy is there for a reason, but the symbolism behind the taking down of the flyer set the tone for the rest of the day.
Later, I was walking down the stairs of O'Neill. In front of me were two of my fellow BC students. They stopped in front of a flyer that read “Black Lives Matter.” I heard the word “disgruntled” but couldn’t make out what they were saying. One of the students stood in front of the sign and pointed while the other one took a photo. As I got closer to them I realized they were making fun of the flyer. The one who posed in front of the flyer joked to the other about captioning the photo with the words "Are You Sure?"
One of my friends had a jarring experience during the day as well. Walking through campus, he started hearing comments.
"There are so many people with that shit on their faces today,” said one passerby. “They're taking this way too serious."
He was partially right. We are taking it seriously. I am taking it seriously. Last night, I was walking to Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee. I had a lot of work to be completed and I thought a nice walk through campus would alleviate some stress. But as I walked on the sidewalk, I began thinking about Trayvon Martin, Brown, Garner.
What if someone came towards me, shot me, killed me, and then told police and a grand jury I charged at him? What if a car came towards me and ran me over as I crossed to the street and told police and a grand jury I charged at him? Would people take that seriously?
These thoughts shouldn't be going through my head, but they were. And this is the reality, the burden, of being a student of color on campus.
This burden should be taken seriously. My college, the one I call home, my peers, the ones I call friends, should not be telling me to take off my duct tape. They should be taking it seriously too.
My story with the facilities worker, my friend’s story with what he heard on campus, and my encounter in O'Neill are being told to shed light on something that no one at BC wants to see.
Race is still an issue, even within the university that prides itself on being men and women for others.
If we're all one, then the issues regarding race and diversity wouldn't be something concerning just students of color and their respective allies. The issue would be concerning to all students, regardless of race, class, gender, major, school, Upper or Newton, Co Ro or Lower.
I want assurance from my university that my life, my roommate’s life, and the lives of students of color on this campus matter. The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs sent out an e-mail addressing the recent events detailing resources and Dialogues on Race sessions being held next week and this is a good first step. But more needs to be done.
Eric Garner couldn't breathe. Michael Brown had his hands up. But no one wants to hear about it. Everyone's tired of hearing about race. To quote Jon Stewart, "Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it." Welcome to our lives.
So when I hear that part of the fight song "For here all are one," I can’t help but ask "Are you sure?"