GUC: U. has responsibility, should show solidarity
Opinions Column: Macro to Micro
“April is the cruellest month,” declared T.S. Eliot nearly a century ago. I might be inclined to agree with him. It was only a few weeks ago when soft, pastel pink cherry blossoms greeted us on campus — perhaps signaling the official arrival of spring. Yet, as I stroll down College Avenue numerous times a day, I cannot help but pause and watch dull leaves replace the pretty flowers that induce such joy and admiration. The short life span of cherry blossoms leads my wandering thoughts to the concept of transience: the inevitable end of all that breathes. Impermanence is a reality that plagues my very existence. Perhaps April is the cruelest month because it portrays both the beauty of life and the certainty of death.
This past Saturday, on April 9, Diahlo Grant, a 27-year-old man, was shot reportedly six times by the Franklin Township Police after an exchange of gunfire. He died. He was a father of six. He was also black. His death captured small snippets of news coverage over the weekend. Investigations of the incident continue yet there exists hardly any raised concern or attention amongst students or the larger community. In a country diseased with police brutality, poisonous roots of racism and an increasing rate of young black men dying at the hands of police, one such a death is perhaps not shocking. However, Grant’s death, which took place in New Brunswick, is an ever-surfacing reminder that the lives of black people are not just overlooked and undervalued in faraway, distant parts of the United States, but absolutely everywhere in this country. Even where we call home. It is our duty to resist becoming immune or apathetic to such news. It is our obligation to demand accountability, transparency and justice both locally and nationwide.
Studies show that despite making up only 2 percent of the population in the United States, black men between the ages of 15 and 34 made up 15 percent of all deaths caused by the police force in the past year. Such a rate is five times higher than that for white men of the same age demographic. However, these statistics are not alien or incongruous to New Jersey, a state that has been under scrutiny and monitoring for racial profiling. An annual report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU) in December of 2015 stated that black residents of New Brunswick were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested than their white neighbors despite the former making up only 13.2 percent of the population as opposed to the whopping 77.4 percent of the latter.
The sense of terror and anxiety that black individuals have to endure and carry during their everyday lives is not baseless nor is it conjured out of unfounded fears. It is rooted in the lack of justice in our judicial system and from the lack of worth their lives carry before the eyes of law enforcement. It stems from the the pervasive racism that degrades middle school students in classrooms, dehumanizes young women in their own vehicles and robs academics of positions they are quite qualified for.
However, as a non-black individual, my most important responsibility lies in the act of listening. I foremost must demonstrate my solidarity by lending my ear and by respecting spaces designated to amplify the voices of the marginalized and discriminated. It is also incumbent upon the Rutgers community to express their support without selective timing or reasoning. Hosting talks and discussions about racism and the plight of black Americans only during the month of February for the sake of fulfilling a Black History Month themed event is not just insufficient — it lacks sincerity. There needs to be a conscious effort by students, organizations and community members to call out heinous acts and stand by their black brothers and sisters at all times. We are mandated to not just write out a hashtag of “Black lives matter” on social media, but to also exhibit the acceptance and internalization of such a truth through action. A black life is a human life. A threat to a black life is a threat to the sanctity of life — to values and principles that define our humanity.
In this capricious month of April, a few remaining cherry blossoms clinging onto their last days became for me a means of introspection. I realized that it is in my human core to desire enduring beauty, everlasting love, eternal life and perfect justice. However, I find myself placed in a world that hardly delivers on such wishes. While this seemingly contradictory state of existence is one I must reflect upon within, I find that I am mandated to actively strive towards such objectives with every moment's given opportunity of speech and behavior. I implore my fellow students, respected professors and faculty and neighbors to also engage in such a commitment.
Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in philosophy. Her column, "Macro to Micro," runs monthly on Wednesdays.
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