Ten rounds shot blindly. Five bullets into the body of a Black woman who previously thought she would go to sleep and wake up soundly. A grand jury decision that refuses to find any officer guilty for murdering one of your own. Immediate justice for the bullets that missed.
When you repeatedly see somebody that looks like you, struggles like you and bleeds like you strung up like strange fruit by the very system that places your melanin on a bounty, you become incapable of ignoring the message. Breonna Taylor was, and is, every Black woman in America.
The first time you witness the lynching of your own, you are devasted, then confused, and by the age of twenty, the pain and injustice become so normalized that you’re forced to become numb to the fact that not enough people care enough to protect you.
The Black woman in America remains on the frontlines of all civil movements: in return she gets nothing. The tireless screams and pleas for help are met with student agendas, temporary action and performance.
On Sept. 23, 2020 — despite my own struggles and fight at Xavier University — it became clear that I could not remain silent. I looked around and saw that nobody was attempting to fight for people that look like me, and I determined that it would go on no longer.
As the lungs of millions of Black women filled with the polluted water of unheard cries and disrespect, Xavier fell silent. Although it was not the first time that diversity and ethnic issues had been swept under the rug, this was the last straw.
I called on close friends to spread the word through social media as an attempt to remain anonymous, creating distance between myself and any furtherance of harm. Breonna Taylor’s name, the neglect of Black women, men and non-binary people both in America and at Xavier University would be the focus of the Speak Up XU protest on Sept. 25. Over 400 students, faculty, parents and peers showed up in solidarity to listen and be overwhelmingly heard.
With the surroundings of Norwood and many underprivileged Black children, it is ironic that Xavier would not be taking an active role in being anti-racist. Students step off of campus and are removed from the XU bubble, but how many Norwood children are we serving to help elevate them in society? It seems like a lot to ask for with respect to Xavier’s own negligence in elevating our own Black students and voices.
Xavier has tried to remain disconnected from reality and it’s own racial biases, but Black students cannot ignore their reality. ‘Minority’ clubs are underfunded, selective obstacles are thrown in front of Black students in academia, Black organizations are hardly ever recognized and BIPOC are grossly underrepresented — but we are asked what can be done.
As a result, the deafening silence (a term utilized by Dr. Yolander Hurst) concerning these issues has limited the graduation rate, mental health and safety of BIPOC here at Xavier for years. We celebrate performative action and check diversity boxes without ever representing the BIPOC that stand on Jesuit soil. Black students remain targeted and ‘suspicious’ by XUPD before White students who vandalize halls are questioned.
I encourage students and faculty to continue to use their voices, demand change and refuse to do the work for people that are too lazy to face it. I end this with the question that haunts me every day since I uttered it at the protest: “How can we expect America to do better if we can’t do better right here?”
Black women and Black students, are drowning and tired of fighting alone. We, as a prestigious university, have a duty to fight for equality — without it we are simply another university that has a mantra that they do not follow.
If we are going to say “All for One. And One For All,” we must recognize and exude that in every possible way. Say their names.