April 5, 2012
On a campus so far removed from many of racial issues that plague our nation, it was reassuring to see last week’s response the shooting of Trayvon Martin, as discussed in Jessica Moulite’s article on the front page. Students frequently joke that Hamilton exists in a “bubble,” far removed from the real-world events off the Hill. Jokes, though, usually have basis in fact, and the reality of Hamilton’s “bubble” is usually seen in the lack of response to significant events that occur off-campus. Even if an incident does occur on campus, discussion of it rarely lasts for more than a few weeks before the issue then fades from the campus consciousness without any meaningful conclusions or changes. Off the Hill, though, these problems have long-term consequences, and Hamilton, as a community, needs to start paying more attention and responding to national events.
Although there is certainly much activism on campus, students frequently end up picking one central cause to focus on during their time at Hamilton. We were thrilled to see the diversity of students at the Trayvon Martin Hoodie Walk, and hope that at future events, students will defy their niches and participate in causes other than their usual ones.
We also appreciate the uniqueness of the Hoodie walk, in that it did not mimic the candlelight vigils of the past. Although such vigils are meaningful ways of respecting victims of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice, they do not make the statement nor have the direct meaning to their cause that the Hoodie Walk did. Through this walk, BLSU and other community members not only showed support for Trayvon Martin’s family, but also made a statement about how we are not as different from Trayvon Martin as our distance and isolation may suggest.
The meeting held after the walk allowed students to talk about their experiences with racial profiling, which helped to bring a national issue into perspective on the Hill. Such discussions, however, are often preaching to the choir; those who go to them already know about the importance of the situation being discussed. To truly help the campus community understand the realities of prejudice, students must change the way they capture the attention of the community, such as the t-shirts hung across campus during Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Perhaps a flier distributed in the dining halls or weekly descriptions of student experiences with prejudice in the Spectator could help students to realize that, both on and off the Hill, issues of racism and other forms of prejudice are still highly relevant.
We hope that, unlike the response to past events, this problem will continue to be discussed even after the incident is no longer in the media. Issues of prejudice are continually present off - and likely on - the Hill. More frequent and better publicized discussions need to be held to ensure that students realize their impact on fellow students and on our country. Although Hamilton’s primary goal should be to provide us with a strong academic education, it should also be helping us to be better citizens, and, to do so, it needs to fully expose us to the prejudice that others face.