Sunday, December 7, 2014

Colgate Protests

On the Window
On Teacher's Doors

 (in Blue Ink) on the window of the Dining/ Studying Area

In the Residential Hall

   On Thursday, I noticed that the glass surfaces of Colgate University were less transparent than usual. The glass panes of doors and windows played the role of bulletin boards. Hand-written scrawl in black and white screamed "I CAN'T BREATHE," "BLACK LIVES MATTER," "#FERGUSON," and other intense statements of 150 characters or less. The words were inescapable. While pounding away at a key board in the Keck Computer Lab in an attempt to hack out a paper, my attention was distracted to my left. I looked over and saw a girl scrawling "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in Expo across a glass wall. She put her whole arm into the endeavor, each letter created standing a foot tall.
     Okay, I thought. The killing of unarmed black men by police officers is inexcusable, so this awareness is a good thing. But... isn't writing on everything a form of vandalism? Is vandalism okay if it's for a just cause?
     The shock I'd feel every time I saw the intense phrases subsided as the day went on. I went to cheer practice. I ate dinner and a second dinner. (I was hungry, alright?). And then I heard about the Die-in. The Die-in took place at the COOP, a dining facility/ mail-room/ computer lab/ casual study space. Basically, a lot of people go in and out of the place on a daily basis. However, accessibility became difficult by mid-afternoon. Students lay on the ground on the steps of the building. More writing was written on the coop glass walls. "28 HOURS." Or in chalk along the steps. The statements had become more aggressive and profane. "FUCK YOUR PRIVILEGE." And, in my opinion, divisional. 
      Then, protesters defaced the American flag. 
        Until Friday, I had not been directly affected by the events of the protest. 

        Friday was the day of Dancefest. I was pumped. My freshman year, I started dancing with the Colgate Ballet Company, and since then, Dancefest has been one of my favorite parts of my college experience. Dancefest is the one night each semester when Colgate's dance groups perform two-hours worth of routines. It's probably the most well-attended on-campus events, attracting nearly the entire student body, faculty, local Hamiltonians, and dancers' families. It's the time when all the rehearsing/choreographing/preparing costumes, lights, music, etc. pays off. 
        Ten minutes before the show would begin at 6 pm, the line to the Chapel entrance still stretched through the lobby and outside the door. Seats on the bottom floor were full, yet many parents and students had yet to sit down. We had been informed the balcony seats (numbering a guesstimate of 200) would be closed due to security threats. That is not something you tell a crowded room full of dancers before their performance. Something like this had never happened before, and the silence in the Chapel basement (a room which right before Dancefest any other year would have been a scene of dancers with anticipation and excitement, mascara and lipstick, photo-ops, and last minute routine run-throughs) felt wrong.
       We all had gathered in a circle around the Dancefest coordinators who informed us what was going on. People would be turned away from the performance because there loomed the threat of protesters throwing projectiles at the dancers or the audience from the balcony seats? Parents had driven for hours to see their kids dance and couldn't even enter the Chapel. Some dancers could not help but fall apart. Tears were shed out of pure frustration. (Luckily, the balcony seats were opened right before the show, and security members were stationed on both floors.)

       This was when I thought the protest had gone too far. 
       Black lives matter, but that does not mean you have the right as a protester to belittle the lives of everyone else. I understand that many protesters are dedicated about to the cause to the point of sacrificing their daily routines, and not performing in the show themselves. But you cannot force everyone else to follow what you personally believe is "the right way" to support this cause. 
       Everyone should be allowed to make a choice. 

       Additionally, I understand that if you want to get a message out to the student body, what better way to do it than when nearly everyone is collectively gathered? But why can't you create your own event instead of inconsiderately overtaking another's event? That protesters would even think it was just to take-over Dancefest was shocking. Such plans to "thrown projectiles" are disrespectful to everyone who had dedicated so much effort to the show and those who would come to attend.

       Furthermore, just because I'm dancing does not mean I don't care about the injustice occurring throughout the United States or anywhere for that matter. It's 2 hours to dance and enjoy the company of fellow dancer and dance-lovers. And just because I don't protest the way you protest does not mean I am ignorant, uncaring, heartless, selfish, racist, etc.

      What I hate about the outcome of Colgate's protests is that is always turns into a matter of us against them. Of we're right and you're wrong. Of if you don't show your support the way we show our support then you're obviously racist/ a horrible person/ not on the side of justice!!!! 

       I get that the protesters are fighting for a cause, but it sucks that through protesters' often aggressive methods, a dichotomy is created. The message they portray is no longer "join our cause", but "join OUR SIDE, OUR METHODS, OUR IDEOLOGY or else your doing the whole care-about-a-cause thing wrong."  

     Another thing to note, those expo-ed words are vandalism. I overheard stories of a custodian becoming flustered and upset because her job was to clean the words off the glass. However, the words, like the protesters, seemed immovable. And even after she'd tried to smudge the words off the glass, they'd reappear in a matter of minutes.

    Update: A week later, those words were still partially written on the walls. Who would see these words over break except the custodial staff? Clean up your messes, protesters. Don't burden the custodial staff.

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