Black Lives on Campuses Matter: The Rise of the New Black Student Movement: With the Growth of #BlackLivesMatter, the Widespread Racism in US Universities Is Once More Being Challenged

By White, Khadijah | Soundings, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Black Lives on Campuses Matter: The Rise of the New Black Student Movement: With the Growth of #BlackLivesMatter, the Widespread Racism in US Universities Is Once More Being Challenged


White, Khadijah, Soundings


'Black Lives Matter' as a hashtag call-to-arms and social movement came into being at a moment when a particular set of intersecting shifts in politics, technology and the economy combined to produce a renewed focus on societal violences that target African-Americans. In 2012, a white man's killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black boy walking home in the Deep South, went unpunished in a jury trial. In a country with a horrifying tradition of killing black people with impunity, this incident seemed to coincide almost intentionally with the arrival of America's first black president, as a potential retribution for the flagrant rise of black influence and power. The national organising and activism around the killing of Trayvon Martin reignited attention to the high incidence of murders and assaults against unarmed Black people across the USA, and in particular those at the hands of law enforcement officers--the state-sanctioned bearers of violence. The rapid expansion of video recording technologies on mobile phones and their use in social media--a feature of neoliberal consumerism--helped to drive activism in areas around the country, providing visual evidence of scene after scene of black men, women, and children being choked, thrown, shot, and brutally beaten by police officers. In one striking case, a passerby filmed a South Carolina police officer shooting a black man--Walter Scott--in the back, and planting a weapon near the his dying body. In another,

Tamir Rice, a 12 year-old child playing with a toy gun was killed without warning, left bleeding on the cold winter ground, while his sister struggled to reach the boy's crumpled body and was handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car. These scenes of murder and grief, set against the background of conspicuous racial progress as symbolised by a Black family in the White House, provided a striking visual and historical juxtaposition. We all wondered whether we were living in the future or the past.

Having become a professor at this moment, for me the political and philosophical assertion that 'black lives matter' is both a call to action and a societal indictment.

I am also a member of the millennial generation--born after 1980 and coming to age in the wake of the greatest recession in America since the Great Depression. As new workers, this generation is faced with an economy that relies increasingly on more work for less pay, a fragmented and tenuous labour force, and education, healthcare, and housing debts that far outpace their earnings. Black millennials, in particular, still disproportionately bear the far-reaching consequences of the 2007 Great Recession. And as neoliberalism takes its toll on the operation, expansion, formation and cost of higher education, the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower are also bearing the brunt of these intersecting societal and economic shifts. In their search for opportunity and success, millennials on campus have helped lead movements for economic and social justice ranging from the Occupy movement in 2011 to the Movement for Black Lives today As a Black millennial and academic, I keenly understand the urgency and motivation of both students and peers. Those of us who are working at universities in the midst of the movement for Black Lives must understand that we are inherently implicated in issues of racial inequality on and off campus, and must address these disparities through creative pedagogy, support of student endeavours and intentional civic engagement. For me this includes writing about and analysing the movement.

As the Black Lives matter campaign developed, experienced and first-time activists mobilised in protest throughout the country, leading marches, blocking traffic and taking to social media to report on the ground events, uniting disparate groups and action nationwide through the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. The Twitter phrase had been coined, promoted, and circulated by three black women (Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors-Brignac) in 2012, after the jury failed to convict George Zimmerman, the man who had killed Trayvon Martin. …

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