In O’Neill Plaza at 4:30 p.m. today, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and administrators gathered for Eradicate Boston College Racism’s Stand Against Hate Rally.
Eradicate BC Racism (EBCR) organized the rally to show solidarity with those who feel targeted as a result of the election last week and to stand up against the violence, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, and misogyny that has been continuously perpetuated throughout the campaign season.
Specifically, according to the Facebook page, EBCR wanted the BC community to participate in the rally to “move beyond celebrating diversity only when it’s in the form of frozen images in university advertising” and to “[demand] a response to student concerns from Boston College that doesn’t equate what’s ‘feasible’ for stakeholders with what is necessary and just.”
In response to the election, individual departments have issued internal emails and groups of faculty have written statements, such as this letter to the BC community that has 250 signatures from faculty across all departments.
In addition, at 2:42 p.m., nearly two hours before the intended start time of the rally, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J. sent an email to the MCAS community calling for “reconciliation” in the aftermath of the “deep reactions and emotions” the election has stirred up on and off campus.
However, Boston College as an institution has not released any statements.
The rally was led by EBCR members Kim Ashby, a fifth-year Counseling Psychology doctoral student who serves as Visuals Co-coordinator of EBCR, Sriya Bhattacharyya, LGSOE ’16, and Cedrick-Michael Simmons, a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department.
Upon entering O’Neill Plaza, participants were invited to take a sign or make a sign with messages that included “BC Admin Email Too Little, Too Late!”, “Stop Oppression,” “Men and Women For Others Themselves," and “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Protesting.”
To begin, Ashby invited anyone who has felt targeted—including women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, and people with disabilities—to hold candles and form an inner circle, and she called for anyone who hasn’t felt targeted but who is an ally—white people, people who feel more privileged—to form an outer circle.
She then led the crowd in a sequence of call and response. She called “Muslim rights” and the crowd emphatically responded “Are human rights," which continued in the same manner to declare that immigrant rights, gay rights, black rights, and women’s rights are human rights as well. The following chant was: “No Donald Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA." Then, the inner group was instructed to call out “Who’s got my back?”, to which the outer group responded “We got your back.” The final chant was: “Black people are under attack. What do we do? Fight back!” These calls and responses were threaded throughout the course of the rally, along with one call and response song that was included halfway through.
Bhattacharyya then invited everyone to take a candle and light it with someone else’s candle in the vicinity. “We are lighting these candles to grieve for the targets of the two hundred and counting hate crimes since the election that the Southern Poverty Law Center reported as of last Friday...many of which are taking place in middle and elementary schools,” she remarked. “We grieve because when we grieve together we emit light, a sense of hope, a sense of connectivity, a sense of resistance that we build together. We hold up light for hope, for our freedom.”
“This past election season has seen a rise in public hateful rhetoric and policies targeted at people of color, LGBTQ folks, women, Muslims, and people from other marginalized groups,” commented Ashby. “Sadly, yet predictably, some people across the country have taken the election of Donald Trump as a mandate to perpetuate violence and harassment. Boston College is not insulated from this oppressive context. Boston College is part of it. As many students and faculty have already made clear, some members of our campus community have been victimized or continue to fear the prospect of targeted violence.”
“Eradicate BC Racism is not a registered student organization, and yet, students have already been told that they will be called in to meet with the Dean of Students for organizing an unsanctioned an unregistered event,” added Simmons. “We shouldn’t have to ask to get a permit to takeover the space that is our space. And so for all of those who come from privileged identities or backgrounds, it’s going to be even more important not just to be here in this space and in this moment, but to also be supportive of those who are going to face retaliation following this event. And we know this is going to happen.”
Meanwhile, Dean of Students Tom Mogan arrived before the start of the rally to oversee the unauthorized event. He, along with other high-level administrators including Associate Vice President of Student Affairs George Arey, stood off to the side throughout the hour-plus long rally.
“We all know what’s characterized the messages we’ve gotten so far from admin and from folks in our buildings...have been this idea that we need to come together for civil dialogue as if all opinions are worthy of the same sort of consideration. We disagree. Eradicate disagrees. And I get the feeling that you all disagree as well,” remarked Eradicate member Chad Olle, LGSOE ‘17. “If a dialogue begins with you telling me that me or somebody I love is not valued, does not matter, is not worthy of respect, is not equal, or does not deserve equal opportunities then you need go look up ‘civil’ in the dictionary.”
The organizers then invited volunteers from the audience to the front of the crowd to openly share their stories or what they were feeling. Messages ranged from personal accounts of violence and oppression to spoken word poetry about a post-Trump America to expressions of gratitude for everyone present to emphatic pleas to stand up and fight back.
Here are only a handful of notable quotes from the several volunteer speakers:
“As a white woman I feel like I have more privileges than others, but as a sexual assault survivor, when you talk about grabbing pussy like we’re a piece of meat, I don’t feel safe,” shared the first volunteer. “And I have to say that we call ourselves the United States, but we’ve turned into a country united by our hate. And I refuse to let that happen. And I am so grateful that we have gathered here today to unite in love because love trumps hate.”
“This is really just the beginning of a very, very long fight. And that’s what it’s going to be: a fight. And when you hear these discussions about coming together because of differences in opinions, they’re not differences of opinions. This is oppression,” noted Professor of Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies Shawn McGuffey. “I refuse to have my humanity debated….When you leave here today, what are you going to do tomorrow? The stakes are too high to forget about this.”
“I lost two friends this week. I’m in Boston. I’m at Boston College the day after the election. What do I see? ‘Make America Great Again.' Is it great? Hell no,” said Eradicate participant Shaun Glaze, LGSOE ’16. “For some of us there is no tomorrow. For some of us there is no four years. For some of us this is it.”
“This no longer is a white black thing, this no longer is a religion thing, this no longer is who you love, this is a humanity thing,” declared Montserrat Assistant Manager Frank Garcia-Ornelas, MSW '16. “Look at how beautiful this is to begin with. Look at all the different shades and colors that are here. Look at all the different genders that are here. No matter what you believe in right now, you believe in humanity and that’s a beautiful thing to be standing right here and looking at this.”
“Can you really be a victim if you slap first?”
“It’s all economics. What’s the cost benefit analysis of the pain they spread in exchange for their peace of mind?”
“This is not political because we’re talking about human rights. You do not contest human rights. That is not an argument.”
“We don’t need to read more bipartisan letters; if you’re going to say something, say it. If you’re not going to protect those who are being threatened, who are being attacked, who are hurting, who are having anxiety attacks and can’t go to the classes that they pay for, don’t f—ing say anything!”
“You might think that one person can’t make a difference, but that’s why we are together a conspiracy of love.”
“My parents are scared for me. They’re scared, and I try to tell them not to be because I’m a strong black woman. And so at the end of the night can you all call your parents and tell them that you’re safe and we’ve got your back.”
“I come from a neighborhood where it’s really hard to imagine kids come up to BC and make a future for themselves. I once had a gun held to my head when I was a kid, and to be able to stand on a campus like this in front of all your beautiful faces to speak against all of the injustices done to us, honestly, is an honor that—I’m about to cry right now—is such an honor for me.”
“I want you to see my face, orange glasses. I usually wear my hair up in a bun. I have purple glasses. I want you to know this because if you need me, I’m here,” said English Professor Rhonda Frederick. “You see me on campus, you greet me, I greet you. We make sure that everybody sees we are present and this is our space.”
Finally, Bhattacharyya and Ashby returned to the front to give concluding remarks about critical next steps.
“Currently, there is no reasonable mechanism to report incidences of violence and hate on this campus. So one thing we need to collectively demand as students here today is that we need to have some mechanism and some trustworthy source to report bias to. And for right now, you can do that to Eradicate,” expressed Bhattacharyya. “If anybody here experiences anything that has been talked about tonight, if you experience hate crimes, bias against you, microaggressions in your classrooms, with administration, anywhere, let Eradicate know. We will put up a form for people to report to and we will collect the data that the institution has not been doing.”
“I challenge you to make tonight not the last night that you participate in activism,” concluded Ashby. “I challenge you to actually do something with this momentum and to keep it going.”
You can like Eradicate Boston College Racism’s Facebook page here. Also, the African American Diaspora Studies Department is holding a PTSD: Post-Trump Sit-Down about truth telling and mobilizing on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Devlin 101.