January 23, 2015
Last semester, Hamilton students organized a die-in to express their outrage over police conduct towards minority citizens. Students and faculty gathered on College Hill Road, blocking traffic and standing resolute against Kirkland police, in order to send a message that we do care about how other people in America are treated. The pride in demonstrators eyes as they chanted “No justice, o peace” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” was very moving, and even put tears in my eyes. Although their intentions for coordinating the die-in were sound, actual coordination itself was a bit lacking. When threatened with arrest for disrupting traffic, students reacted chaotically with tactics such as stepping forward collectively, believing they could not all be arrested. The demonstration itself was compelling, but acts such as these demonstrate how the possibility of being arrested was hardly considered.
As students at one of the most respected colleges in the country, we have a responsibility to people outside our campus—and ourselves—to acknowledge injustice when it is blatantly apparent. Yet the way we acknowledge such injustices are crucial for how we represent our stances towards them. Martin Luther King, Jr. not only advocated for non-violent civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement, but also strategized with members of organizations including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was through a consideration of the consequences of a non-violent course of actions that Dr. King and many others designed a movement that changed our nation forever. But today one can witness people in St. Louis outraged over a non-violent course of action, scorning the very principles that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for—the principles that we honor during a celebration for his achievements.
I went to the Martin Luther King Day celebration in the Annex, sitting with a diverse body of students and faculty. Although I noticed a similar lack of preparation for the event, there remained a deep appreciation for the goals that Dr. King and others like him fought for with their lives. At one point in the event, Syracuse University Professor Arthur Flowers exclaimed, “Rest in peace Dr. King. We got this.” Yet witnessing these disorganized events I am not entirely sure if that is true. It is good to be outraged over injustices facing minority citizens in this country today, but that outrage must be met with a sense of maturity that is astoundingly lacking. In order to resolve this problem, perhaps we should reexamine last semester’s die-in protest, and how vital it is for our situation today.