This past Thursday, about 200 students dressed in all black gathered outside of O’Neill Library to share stories of suffered injustices and to stand in solidarity with the students of University of Missouri. The meeting was most directly connected to online death threats aimed at Mizzou’s black student population, which followed a string of other racist acts near and on the campus that resulted in the University’s president, Timothy Wolfe, stepping down.
The gathering should be considered a huge success, due in part to not only the mobilization of such a large number of students, but also the presence of outspoken faculty. The current racial climate at Boston College can be traced back in part to last November, when the ruling to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson led to dozens of students marching from McElroy Commons to the BCPD’s office on Lower Campus. Ever since, there has been an increased interest in evaluating the University’s commitment to social justice through the lens of racial inequity.
At Thursday’s gathering, there was a noticeably larger and more diverse group of people. Rev. Michael Davidson, S.J., gave the opening prayer and associate sociology professor C. Shawn McGuffey spoke to the stories of racism that he has heard during his tenure. The event ran smoothly, and the University showed strong signs of unity throughout this display of solidarity.
With the St. Mary’s die-in, last semester’s rallies for divestment, and multiple unsanctioned poster dumps on campus over the past year in mind—all of which drew the ire of administrators—Thursday’s event marked a shift toward more responsive University policies. Although this “Blackout” rally was short—lasting for only about 10 minutes—seeing all of the students marching and standing in unison created a powerful image. The event was quickly approved by the Dean of Students, which allowed for a timely commenting on current events.
On the administrative side, this gathering was an instance where the permit rule—a rule that requires students to attain approval for demonstrations from the Dean of Students—made sense. Happening just after noon on a school day, the “Blackout” could have potentially presented a disruption to classes. But since administrators were willing to coordinate efforts with students, there was little friction in its planning, and the demonstration actually benefitted from the faculty’s increased awareness of it. Some teachers with 12 p.m. classes even decided to start a half hour late so that students could participate.
At the end of the gathering, a picture was taken of all of the participants with their fists raised up in the air—a symbolic gesture for standing in solidarity with the students in Missouri. It was the University functioning at its best. In stark contrast to national headlines—which have dismissed similar protests as the outcry of a coddled generation—this was a place for discussion, a place for prayer, and an occasion in which free speech could flourish.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Grpahics