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.