Black Lives Matter Display at SEMO Sees Backlash

Black Lives Matter Display at SEMO Sees Backlash

Your actions against this demonstration only made the point resonate stronger.

This week at Southeast Missouri State University, some students put together a display honoring the black men and women who have been killed in acts of police violence. The display consisted of white T-shirts hanging on a clothesline, painted with the names and details of the killings. This display was an effort to raise awareness of police violence against black men and women happening all across the country. Some of the names included Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Dante Parker, and more.

Unfortunately, the morning after the project was put out for display, someone came along and proved exactly why we needed a display like this in the first place.

The second day the display was out, one of the organizers found an additional shirt, painted to say, "This is to honor the 61 police officers who have died in the line of duty in the past year." Many students, after hearing about this, justified the placing of the additional shirt by an anonymous student. However, this action just drove the point home even harder.

An increasing number of people of color are being targeted by police brutality. It has been going on for a long time, but the current Black Lives Matter movement seemed to start with the killing of Mike Brown. In so many cases, it seems that black men and women are being targeted and hurt by police, unjustifiably, and many of the police officers (read: murderers) are not being punished. The American public is defending them, and it is utterly disheartening.

So, in an era where violence against people of color is being justified and shrugged off, the most important thing we can do about it is raise our voices and raise awareness. And once again, someone has tried to drown out the voice of this cause with a seemingly opposing message.

Yes, it is terrible that 61 police officers have died in the line of duty over the past year. However, this display was not the place to voice those concerns. This display was meant to raise awareness about the senseless, racist violence being committed against black men and women. It was meant to bring light to the flaw in our justice system that is getting people of color killed. Invading the Black Lives Matter display with an uninvited defense against police officers is literally only making the point of this display stronger. This type of thing is happening every day; actions like this are the problem. Even if the student who placed the shirt on the display meant to take away from the cause, they only added fire to the flame of anger against the justification of police violence and the never ending defense of a corrupt justice system.

So, whoever you are, congrats. Your attempt to ruin someone's hard work on a meaningful display only sparked more yearning for change among Southeast students. Think I'm wrong? Check out Living at Southeast.

In other words, you tried.

UPDATE: The University has taken no action to rectify the situation, and the display has been pulled down twice as of Monday, 12/5. On Sunday night, Bruce Skinner banned all posting in Living At Southeast because of the discussion about the issue. Instead of reprimanding those adding racist and hateful comments to the discussion, Dr. Skinner took action as an administrator and enacted an unfair blanket punishment on everyone in the group, including others who use the group for questions and information about campus and had no part in the discussions. I'm thoroughly disappointed in his actions and lack of regard for discussion about such an issue.

Cover Image Credit: Southeast Missorian

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Your Prayers Mean Nothing

I have absolutely no qualms about opening this brief piece with a statement that, for some incomprehensible reason, is considered to be contentious.

I have absolutely no qualms about opening this brief piece with a statement that, for some incomprehensible reason, is considered to be contentious:

Your prayers are worthless.

I’m not sorry to say it. I don’t care if that makes me heartless in your eyes. In fact, the extent to which I do not care is somewhat staggering. Over the past few days, since watching a video of a classroom not unlike the ones where I spent my high school years, I have been wrestling through some of the most tremendous anger that I have felt in my life. I have had trouble sleeping. I’ve spent hours disregarding my responsibilities, only able to scroll through the Twitter accounts of those who survived the most recent shooting in Florida. Most recent. It’s getting hard to keep track, isn’t it? Columbine is no longer the deadliest mass shooting at a high school in US history. On average, twenty-four children are shot every day in the USA. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed.

My sister is ten years old. She lives in Wisconsin, halfway across the country from where I go to school in Massachusetts. Every day, there is a part of my mind that expects to see her name and her face in the news as a victim of our oh-so-beloved country’s most recent mass shooting. And that isn’t delusion: that isn’t my chronic anxiety getting the better of me, plunging me into irrational paranoia. It is vigilance. It is not unrealistic to fear for my baby sister’s life. She is a fan of Minecraft, American Girl dolls, and visual art. In the sunroom of our house, her watercolor paintings are taped up above her drawing desk. One of our cats, an orange heap of fluff named Tansy, loves my sister more than anyone else in the world; she tolerates being dragged around the house and incessantly dressed up.

How many of the fourteen students murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were younger siblings? Don’t be fooled by the coldness of a numerical representation. Look at their faces. They are not hurt. They are not permanently disabled. They are not comatose. They are dead. The present and future of our planet will continue without them. They will not finish the books they were reading. They will not finish the homework weighing over their heads. They will not reciprocate any Valentine’s Day flirtations. They will not set foot inside a college. They will not get married. They will not have children. They will not get to say goodbye to their parents, their friends, their partners, their pets. And the traces of them will not go away. Their social media accounts will remain static ad infinitum. Their families will need to clean out their rooms, choose whether to sell their belongings.

The AR-15 used to commit these crimes was purchased legally.

The president and the political right are happy to proclaim that this violence would continue with or without stronger gun control, but in this case, they are wrong. Nikolas Cruz would not have vanquished seventeen infinities if such control were in place.

With gun control, Alyssa Alhadeff would still be playing soccer.

With gun control, Scott Beigel would still be teaching history.

With gun control, Martin Duque’s brother would not be going through the very scenario that terrifies me every day.

With gun control, Nick Dworet would have joined the swim team at the University of Indianapolis this fall.

With gun control, Aaron Feis would still be assistant coaching football.

With gun control, Jamie Guttenberg would be wrapping up her first year of high school.

With gun control, Chris Hixon would still be giving lunch money to students who didn’t have their own.

With gun control, Luke Hoyer would not have been buried before his grandparents.

With gun control, Cara Loughran would still be performing Irish dance.

With gun control, Gina Montalto would have someday picked out a prom dress.

With gun control, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver would still be listening to hip-hop and enthusing over sports with his girlfriend, Victoria.

With gun control, Alaina Petty would continue to do volunteer work, as she did in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

With gun control, Meadow Pollack would be attending Lynn University in a few months.

With gun control, Helena Ramsey would still be engaged in relentless motivation towards her academic studies.

With gun control, Alex Schachter would have continued to hone his talent for trombone playing.

With gun control, Carmen Schentrup would have taken advantage of her status as a National Merit Scholar semifinalist in her college applications.

With gun control, Peter Wang would not be absent from the ROTC program at his school.

With gun control, I may soon enough be saying, my sister would have been able to come home and work on her gorgeous array of watercolor paintings.

Did you skim that list? Did your eyes glaze over? Did you find it repetitive or boring? Do you remember even three of the names I just told you?

And yet you send families your “prayers.” And you go back to enjoying your illusion of safety. You keep vaguely hoping that your child, your sibling, your grandchild won’t be next.

There are people who will say these deaths should not be politicized. I believe they should not be romanticized. I’ve watched the videos. I’ve seen the children lying in pools of blood. Seventeen lives are now lost, and countless more are broken.

A week ago, no one predicted this. This Monday, these kids were making weekend plans.

When will the next one be? It could be today. It could be tomorrow. But it will come. We’ll all see the trending tag on Twitter, or we’ll hear about it on the radio, or we’ll get our own calls from the hospital and learn that this time, we weren’t so lucky.

Our passivity is pathetic. This seven-year-old girl, living with PTSD, was more effective than every single person who tweets their “prayers” or their “grief” or their “sympathy.”

We need to push for better gun control now. The argument that violence will continue even with control is utterly irrelevant. If gun control saves one life--just one--it will be worth the tedium. This time, it could have saved seventeen.

Silence is compliance. Your prayers save no one. We need to make change, and we need it now, before hundreds more lives are shattered in the space of a single unexpected day.

Cover Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures

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An Open Letter To The Students Of Stoneman Douglas High School

My thoughts and prayers extend to all of you.

To the students of Stoneman Douglas High School,

I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you have experienced a tragedy so vast and so deliberate. I am sorry that you are the victims of a pain that no one should ever have to feel.

I can’t begin to understand the pain you are feeling right now. The tragedy through which you have suffered is one that no one should have ever had to experience. You have lost friends and family much too soon, and much too quickly. And you have lost the safe feeling that school should provide for you. Your lives are changed because of one person’s actions, in a way that will stick with you forever. I can’t pretend that I know what this feels like or pretend to understand what battles you are facing.

But I can relate to you on one level – I know what it is like to be in high school.

You are high school students with so much life ahead of you. You are confused and excited and ready to start your future. You are looking ahead with stars in your eyes. Keep looking ahead to your dreams. Allow yourself to keep at least a piece of the world that existed before this tragedy, because it is that hope that is going to be stronger than everything else in the world. The pain you are dealing with is immense, and anyone who wasn’t there won’t be able to understand that fully, but you can turn to each other and rely on each other to overcome this.

Take care of yourselves. The road ahead of you is long, but your journey does not end because of this. Focus on what you can control, and allow yourself to be okay with not being okay. You don’t have to be strong right now. I am here to be strong for you, and so is the rest of the world.

People care. We care about what happened to you, and we care about not wanting it to happen ever again. I stand with all of you as you battle to make change in this country. I stand with you as you are brave enough to take a stand and use your pain to influence positive change. I stand with you as you are incredibly strong, unwaveringly courageous, and inspiringly determined to bring about action.

And I stand with you when you are grieving the loss of those you love.

What you have endured cannot be put into words. I wish only that there was a way to go back in time to stop this from ever happening. I wish that there was something I could do. But know that I am here, pulling for you from afar, supporting you as you valiantly take on each day.

This world needs to change. Tragedies like this should never happen – schools should not be a dangerous place for kids. I am sorry that it has taken so long for our country to understand that. I hope that from this, there can be action to make the future a safer place.

I send you my thoughts and prayers, and I send you my promise to take action when given the opportunity. Until then, know that I am not alone when I say that you are all some of the strongest people I know, even if you don’t feel like it.

You are all incredibly loved.


A college student who hopes that your courage brings about necessary change.

Cover Image Credit: ABC News

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