Opinions

Battling Injustice: Small Steps in a Big Picture

Exactly two months ago today, hundreds_x000D_
of us marched down these vanilla suburb streets, hands and fists in the air._x000D_
Then, when the Big Apple was left breathless, Frary and McConnell became_x000D_
protest sites of the new civil rights movement. 

For two weeks, no one—not even the_x000D_
apathetic—could escape the atmosphere we created. We were reading Fanon,_x000D_
calling out the media establishment, tweeting #BlackLivesMatter and blasting_x000D_
Lauryn Hill.

It was beautiful.

But then finals came. Then it was time_x000D_
to leave. And before I knew it, I was sitting in class listening to how amazing_x000D_
the Alps were and how there’s nothing better than horseback riding in the snow._x000D_
I sat there waiting to spit my bullshit and—voila!—it’s_x000D_
back to school again.

This shouldn’t be that surprising. These_x000D_
things tend to play out this way.

At first, we burst with political anger_x000D_
and disbelief, followed by frivolous efforts to organize resistance advertised_x000D_
by countless status updates. Then things cooled down—I mean, not really, since police_x000D_
violence is a staple in the lives of millions of Americans (especially if_x000D_
you’re black and broke), but you know what I mean.

But for a second, Claremont felt_x000D_
different. It mirrored a country that was bringing highways to a halt; where_x000D_
protests and rallies became the norm; where mass incarceration and police_x000D_
brutality were topics of conversation and debate, not just part of a syllabus.

It mirrored a people ready—demanding—to take control.

That sense of urgency is what Dr. Marc_x000D_
Lamont Hill told us all to keep alive. On Jan. 29, Dr. Hill—a prominent_x000D_
public intellectual and frequent political commentator on CNN—gave the keynote_x000D_
address at the Consortium’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration_x000D_
at Scripps College’s Garrison Theater.

Entitled “Youth Activism in_x000D_
Post-Ferguson America,” the Morehouse College professor’s speech—which at_x000D_
points felt like a sermon and at others like a conversation—urged an audience_x000D_
of about 300 students from the 5Cs and other surrounding colleges and_x000D_
universities to keep fanning the flames of revolution. For Dr. Hill, young people are the biggest source of radical change. For one, young folks don’t have as many responsibilities as their elders—bills and mortgages can really fuck up one’s life, you know.

But Dr. Hill didn’t stop there. He advised that we must not only keep ourselves fired up and working for change, but also follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and look at the bigger picture.

“We as a nation must undergo a radical_x000D_
revolution of values,” proclaimed the reverend exactly a year prior to his_x000D_
assassination. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society_x000D_
to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and_x000D_
property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets_x000D_
of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being_x000D_
conquered.”

In the same vein, Dr. Hill made several_x000D_
connections between state violence and structural inequalities predicated upon homophobia, patriarchy_x000D_
and misogyny. After all, what’s more patriarchal than militarism? Where else do sexual violence and white supremacy intersect more than in the prison-industrial complex, fostered by a racialized War on Drugs and mass incarceration?

These connections take such little effort to put together. Maybe it is inertia that makes us ‘stay in our lanes.’ Maybe it is the fear of messing up or not knowing enough about our peers’ own struggles. Whatever the case is, movements should strive to intersect just as much as their issues do.

Coalition work, however, shouldn’t be relegated to the Dream Defenders of the world. We at the 5Cs should follow suit and_x000D_
link up, too.

After more than two-and-a-half years of_x000D_
being here, I can’t name more than five student organizations that I’m already part of—a disappointing feat when there are hundreds of student groups, resources and clubs at our fingertips. I suspect that it’s the same for most of you, too. That kind_x000D_
of ignorance is anything but inevitable—it’s a sign of our lack of cooperation_x000D_
and gap in our collective knowledge of the particular struggles we face. 

No, we aren’t all affected by police_x000D_
violence in the same way, and no cisgender man knows the pains of being on the_x000D_
other side of that label. But just because we can’t align ourselves completely_x000D_
doesn’t mean we can’t become accomplices in the struggle for the liberation of_x000D_
all.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to_x000D_
justice everywhere” might be the most played-out MLK quote, but it’s an_x000D_
adequate starting point. All of us agree that any type of oppression is_x000D_
inherently immoral and should be abolished, but none of us know what all types_x000D_
of oppression look and feel like. This is why we need one another, especially_x000D_
if we’re serious about changing the status quo.

But we don’t all have to be Dr. King or_x000D_
Dolores Huerta, nor do we have to pass the next Civil Rights Act to feel as if we’ve_x000D_
done something useful. Relatively small victories—such as creating a Department of Native_x000D_
American and Indigenous Studies—can have a long-lasting impact,_x000D_
bigger than any one of us can foresee.

In the interest of furthering the_x000D_
radical spirit felt in those last two weeks of 2014, let’s all take a day or_x000D_
two out of our impenetrably busy schedules to connect with one another so that_x000D_
when the times comes, we’ll be there, side by side.

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Carlos_x000D_
Ballesteros CM ’16 is a history and sociology double major from Chicago. He_x000D_
plans on radicalizing all of your children once he gets his teacher’s_x000D_
certification.

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