Roosevelters Speak Out on Campus Racial Justice Movement

November 13, 2015

Andrew Lindsay, Roosevelt Institute Emerging Fellow for Equal Justice and student at Amherst College:


For many students of color across the country, it is not uncommon to feel naked and constantly exposed to the elements. Subtle erasures of our bodies, slight yet sharp jabs from the ignorant, interrogations of whether or not we are deserving, a continuous feeling of homelessness—“Are you sure this space is really mine?” we ask. “They tell me that it is, but I feel so uncomfortable.”

These erasures can feel like the loss of a home to natural disaster, and as with an earthquake or hurricane, it’s hard to place blame. Individual losses hurt, but we are expected to be tough and weather those storms. But collective ones, the catastrophic disasters, are especially difficult to cope with. With each threat to students of color, each minority faculty or staff firing, there is an intense feeling of loss—a void that feels almost impossibly difficult to fill.

Right now, students of color and their allies are coming together to press for substantive demands in order to create safer and more equal spaces on their campuses. These students are no longer excusing systemic oppression on campuses that pride themselves on diversity yet maintain hostile living and learning environments for racial minorities. The old rules for how students of color lived and learned on campuses are obsolete. Students are rewriting the rules for how they are seen, both on their campuses and in the world at large. We at Roosevelt support students inside our network and out striving to create more egalitarian spaces.

Marissa Charlemagne, head of Roosevelt @ Goucher College:

As I scroll through my social media and see my friends post statuses and photos standing in solidarity with the Black students at the University of Missouri, and my peers celebrate Black beauty by wearing all-black clothing for #BlackOutDay, I feel as if I’m in an old movie from the civil rights era. But while my white friends have the ability to remove the black clothes, the cloth and all that comes with it will never come off me, and I never want to.

Students should not be afraid to go to classes. It is not the 1950s; we are in the 21st century, and Black students at Missouri, Yale, Howard, and across the nation are still getting death threats, scared to leave their rooms, all because of the color of their skin. Seven percent of students at Missouri are Black and only 3.25 percent of the full-time faculty is Black. This lack of diversity reflects the university’s lack of commitment to fostering a community that respects and cares about Blackness.

To those in Missouri: I do not stand in solidarity with you because I feel for your struggle; I stand in solidarity with you because I too experience your struggle as a Black student. But prayer is not enough. Organizing has been the answer, and it will continue to get the results we need. We demand better, we refuse to deal with anti-Blackness, and we expect institutional change by any means necessary.