Millennials Are Doing Paris, Mizzou, And Yale Activism All Wrong

Flickr / Calvin Ogawa
Flickr / Calvin Ogawa

With recent news broadcasting the horrific threats cast upon black bodies at The University of Missouri, colleges nationwide have taken a stand against the systemic racism that has unnervingly instilled fear into the lives of students of color everywhere. The University of Missouri, known in short as Mizzou, isn’t the first school to have its students of color’s lives put in danger by way of threats made on social media apps, like Yik Yak. Instead of shrugging off yet another considered “isolated case,” students are demanding their administrations listen to their concerns and create viable courses of action when racially driven coercions are made on their campuses, even if the perp is foreseeably anonymous.

A mobilization of activists is almost expected to ensue. Students at my ridiculously liberal school joined the “We Stand With Mizzou” movement, circling around individuals who felt inclined to voice their concerns, discussing at length the dangers readily accessible to people of color everyday by means of their skin complexion.

The experience was gooey with an emotively anxious air; something needed to be felt within the hearts of Millennials who happen to be dangerously adjusted to a sick society. Passersby were told to share the hashtags #ConcernedStudent1950 and #InSolidarityWithMizzou followed by the statement: “To the students of color at Mizzou, we stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, we are watching.” in order to get the topic trending on various social media fronts.

It was affirming to see masses of students extending themselves to struggles much larger than their own—an aspect of activism that is oftentimes thought to be dead within Gen Y.

Needing to bring myself to more Zen-like feelings, I traveled home to New York City this weekend to reunite with a couple of lifelong friends to dish on the spurring, nonsensical traumas of our lives. We sat, relaxed within some hole-in-the-wall dive bar, bouncing as a saxophonist rang in the evening, until word of the terrorist attacks in Paris pummeled our newsfeeds.

“WHAT!?” a friend of mine had screeched, pointing to the countless profile pictures overlaid with the French flag to support its people during this trying time. “Isn’t Stephanie studying abroad there right now? How do I get the flag over my selfie — I NEED her to see that I don’t back terrorism.”

Surely enough, the profile picture was easily glossed over, and our night progressed discussing the numerous socio-political horrors that plagued the world the past few days. Still wholly connected to the terrors at Mizzou and the wrongdoings at Yale, a discourse concerning race in America made leeway, gravitating multiple opinions from friends and strangers alike.

The overall sentiments seemed to be the same, and basically went along the lines of, “I don’t know anyone in Missouri plus nothing actually happened there,” and even, “The kids at Yale are just being too sensitive—like grow up!”

Are Millennials really this aloof to such time sensitive issues? I hadn’t known what to think. Of course, what happened in Paris was incomprehensible and derivative of actions taken by terrorist group ISIS. Everyone affected hadn’t deserved the offshoot anguish—this is an “everyone” type problem; we’re at war, after all.

But, when we solely recognize the troubles dogging Paris (a reported 129 killed insofar), we’re negating the countries ISIS is continually blemishing, like Iraq and Lebanon. Certain individuals think it’s only needed of Americans to support those in France because — well, they’re white and Western and stand with us on a majority of issues. On 9/11, France said that “We are all Americans,” but isn’t it best to stand with all of humanity, even if those whose lives that were endangered happened to only be college students of color?

A text post sharing parallel distastes on social media stated: “Where’s the Syrian flag overlay? The Kenyan flag overlay? The Palestinian flag overlay? Or a trans* solidarity overlay? Keep the disenfranchised in your hearts always rather than being incensed only by documented conflict.”

Posts like these never go as viral as ones centric to the direct struggles of non-white individuals. Our activism, for a good chunk, can only be lengthened to groups whose worlds we can see ourselves living in, or if it’s as easy as “temporarily” changing our default pictures on Facebook in solidarity.

Being uprooted out of an extensively radical location and into the “real” world is terrifying. You begin to realize that not everyone’s morals align with yours, and even that some individuals still take issue with the idea of racism being systematic. I don’t know if it’s ever okay to be desensitized to worldly events, but when anonymous threats like, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see,” are laughed off, there is a problem perhaps larger than Millennial pseudo-activism. TC mark

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