Written by Catherine Palmer, senior
To the Elon community:
I am sickened and outraged by the latest incidence of racial prejudice and attack on our campus. How many young African-American women (and men) must suffer fear and humiliation before we speak up? Although racism is a complex system of oppression with deeply seeded roots, it is also a matter of personal integrity and responsibility. If you are part of the majority, you have the moral responsibility to educate yourself about your own status of power and privilege. This does not mean that as a white person you are automatically racist, nor does it mean you are being blamed for your privilege. It means that you have been born into circumstances that make your life easier than the lives of many of your fellow citizens, and to live authentically and justly, it is paramount that you recognize those advantages.
Racism extends beyond the inclusivity and celebration of diversity, or lack thereof, on a college campus. It shapes the way that we, as Americans, interact with each other, with our government and with our economy. While African Americans account for roughly 13.2 percent of the American population, they represent 39.4 percent of the total incarcerated population. African Americans are at a much higher risk of heart disease and stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and influenza as compared to their white counterparts. Nationally, 59 percent of African-American men who enroll in a four-year college graduate, while 80 percent of white men who enroll in a four-year college earn their degrees. These disparities are not random. They stem from a cultural belief that black lives matter less than white lives. This is not acceptable.
Part of the Elon mission statement is to create “informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.” Live up to that challenge. Do not sit by passively and wonder why riots and protests over police brutality are erupting all over our nation.
Do not allow yourself to be confused by the definition of cultural appropriation. Do not be tricked into thinking that racism does not affect you in some way. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Most importantly, think critically about what it means to be concerned for the “common good.” What role do you play in society, and how can you personally create spaces for dialogue, for difference and for positive change? The task of eradicating racism should not fall to those who already shoulder the burden of a racist society. We, as a campus community, as a nation, have a duty to act.