One of the biggest things that I admire about SUNY Old Westbury to this day is how diverse the campus is and its large focus on social justice and change. This is coming from someone who would typically be one of maybe two other students of color sitting in a classroom during high school and feeling a little out of place. Since starting my college life at SUNY Old Westbury, I’ve come to notice how much more comfortable I feel seeing myself surrounded by a multitude of diverse and different people.
The first thing I was taught when I started at SUNY Old Westbury was all about social justice and change, especially that of the college taking a part in that on multiple occasions. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I was hearing about any of that stuff seeing as I frequently see calls to social change in a lot of different places anyway, specifically the Internet. However, for me it felt a little different and more memorable just knowing that the school I’m attending was, and still is, influenced by immense social justice and change to the point where it inspires the student body to act and spread awareness about the issues that are important.
In light of very recent and unnecessarily long events that have been happening all around the country, SUNY Old Westbury is hosting a week dedicated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement between September 12th until September 16th. This week is going to be full of a number of events like spoken word poetry slams, speeches, Q&A sessions, and places where people can freely express themselves based on the movement. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been such an important movement not just on social media, but for a whole group of people that has been, unfortunately, marginalized and disregarded for a really long time. In short, the movement provides a safe space for the people involved and also helps in advocating change to get rid of injustice and provide more rights and freedom for a diverse community. It also sheds immense light on the issue of innocent lives being killed due to armed forces like the country's very own police system. The movement is not dismissing the struggles of other communities, but they are trying to fix a problem that has been going on for far too long.
As SUNY Old Westbury is a school that was involved in multiple social change movements upon the college’s construction, seeing recently made movements like the #BlackLivesMatter week coming onto campus is nice to see as it makes us all more aware about the situations happening currently in our present day and gives a chance for students to participate and express themselves. However, with a movement towards a specific group of people and cause, it’s no surprise that there will be opposing groups that disagree with certain aspects towards the fact that there is a whole week dedicated to a social movement. In fact, amidst the preparation for this week and all its events emerged a group formally known as SUNY Old Westbury #AllLivesMatter that plans on silently protesting during this week. Here are my opinions on the matter.
First and foremost, I am not at all saying at all that the emergence of this group on our campus is a bad thing as people are definitely entitled to their own opinion and can express it however they want. I am also not attacking or belittling the thoughts or opinions of those involved in the group at all. However, there is something a little off to me when I see a group like this base their purpose of their movement as a diversity issue. Ultimately, the #AllLivesMatter movement advocates for not just the rights for the lives of black people, but for all people of all races, cultures, and religions. It also pushes for “unity, not division.” In retrospect, it is not a harmful movement as it advocates for everyone, however there is something vital the movement is not realizing and that is, just because there are other movements that are group-specific like the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it does not mean that they are dismissing the importance of other people’s lives. Take myself for example, I'm a nineteen year old Pakistani and Muslim girl who knows first hand how horribly people think about both my culture and religion in all different aspects. I advocate for the rights of Muslims and to end the stigma against Islam. I do not, however, feel as if the #BlackLivesMatter movement is harmful for me because I also want justice to be served and I stand by them.
The call for the #BlackLivesMatter movement goes back to constant years of racism, marginalization, and degradation towards the black community within the United States. There has been vital and important social changes that have made things more liberating and free for nearly everyone, but the racism aspect is still a problem. So when I see a group like #AllLivesMatter taking a stand against the notion of a group being able to freely express themselves because of an issue that should be resolved, it makes me feel like the feelings and justified thoughts of those involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement are dismissed.
It is important to acknowledge that all lives do in fact matter, however there's something scary knowing that no matter how much you advocate for all lives mattering, there are still groups of people who are constantly marginalized and mistreated because of reasons that should not exist. This notion also makes me think that it's bad to be advocating in something group-specific just because it's not about everyone.
I think I've said all that I wanted to discuss about this matter at this point, however I'll end it with some questions: Since the #AllLivesMatter movement makes it a goal to let everyone know that we should be unified and not divided, why do the racial issues and injustice towards specific groups of people keep occurring?
Why are innocent lives still being taken away?