To have courage of one's convictions means to have a mentality, to be willing to do, to say, and to stand for what you believe to be right even in the face of criticism, danger, fear, etc. simply because it is what one believes to be just or moral. Recently, the personal targeting of students of color at St. Olaf has forced our campus to have hard conversations about race and racism and to recognize the racism woven into the fabric of our community. These events and the dialogue that ensued have revealed the character of many––some have been entirely apathetic to the situation or complacent whilst others have vigorously addressed the issue head on and have had the courage of convictions to defend what they believe to be right. Overall, it has been disheartening to see the lack of empathy demonstrated by some, but empowering to see the significant amount of students, faculty, and staff who care and have grown so much in the past week.
Reflecting upon a whirlwind of emotions I am trying to process, I have never been more ashamed, or more proud to be apart of the St. Olaf community. I am ashamed that I consider myself a part of a community that has for so long turned a blind eye to implicit and explicit racism. I am ashamed that it took shutting down a central building on campus and massive protests to get the administration to just listen. I am ashamed for all the times I heard a racist remark or microaggression and never said a thing. And I am ashamed, to have been oblivious to a struggle that many of my classmates and people I care about go through daily. However, I am incredibly proud of, and inspired by, a group of students of color who have led a movement on campus to end racism. I am proud to see what a group of students can achieve when they come together with a goal. I am proud of how well organized, peaceful, and progressive this movement has been. I am proud of the students of color and the white allies that stood together this week to defend what is morally right. I am proud, of the immense dialogue that has been facilitated on campus and the faculty support of what the students are doing. Most of all, I am proud of the courage of convictions that student's have had this week.
It is a daunting task to challenge a racist institution and perhaps harder to stand up to the administration that represents the institution. Regardless the Collective for Change on the Hill handled everything with unparalleled grace and class that is truly commendable. Though this is only the first step, it is encouraging to see what dedicated students are able to accomplish, giving me hope that our community can truly change for the better.