Editorial: Social injustice: From silence to conversation

Silence fell over the Weis Center following a video montage prepared for the “Conscience, Courage, Community” discussion on Sept. 6. The montage depicted media coverage of the plague of social injustices that have taken over airwaves in recent months: the epidemic of murders of black Americans by police officers, the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the irresponsibly lenient sentencing of a young man convicted of rape, and the rise in terrorist attacks across the globe, to name a few.

In the wake of these tragedies, we are often stunned, first into silence, then into conversation. But too frequently the lifespan of these conversations lasts for a single news cycle, maybe two depending on the gravity of the situation. Things that are not placed at the forefront of our conversations fade into the background, and we move on, because it’s human nature. That which does not directly impact our lives is harder to devote attention to, because there are so many things that demand our attention, rather than simply requesting it.

While efforts are made to spur conversation and dialogue about social injustices, it is undeniable that the people who organize and attend these community discussions, though crucial for the forward momentum of these causes, are not necessarily the target audience. During the discussion that followed several members of the University community sharing their personal connections to various social injustices, a participant pointed out that these talks are optional and do not convey the importance attached to the event. Although it is unlikely that a single person would have disputed the importance of this discussion, the Weis Center was not even at half capacity.

Some students experience culture shock upon coming to the University as first-years, whether because they are unaccustomed to a perceived lack of diversity or a perceived abundance of diversity. On the surface, the University appears to be homogeneous—many students come from the same geographic and privileged socioeconomic background. But beneath the surface there are commonalities which can unite us. Unfortunately, these commonalities are sometimes rooted in tragedy that we can all connect to.

The University is especially good at creating communities designed to dig deep on topics of huge importance: Residential Advisors, leaders of Residential Colleges, leaders of student organizations and student government, Teaching Assistants, and many others go through extensive training in order to ascertain how best to approach tough conversations. But while there are many forums to discuss injustices on a local level and a broader one, students, staff, and faculty do not often take advantage of them. The importance of doing so is paramount to the growth of the University and all of its community members, because it provides the impetus to spark conversations among others on campus.

Consider that after four short years on this campus, every member of the graduating class embarks on their own journey. Do your part to ensure that your graduating class is the most empathetic and informed class that the University has graduated yet—bring a friend to a talk who would not otherwise have gone, engage with a classmate on a current event that your class did not cover. We, as engaged members of an intelligent college community, have a duty to those who suffer at the hand of social injustices to not ignore that which does not directly affect us.

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