Audre Lorde once said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
This is to mean that the institution which puts in place the racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic ideology will not be the one to remove it. At Syracuse University, the master—the Chancellor, the board of trustees, and the greater institution of higher education—will not be the one to dismantle the academy they have created. Thus, it is upon us, the students, to make that change and to force that change among all the people who refuse to see or acknowledge the problem.
I became aware of the incident at Theta Tau the summer before I arrived here at Syracuse for my freshman year. In all of my excitement, I started to doubt the institution where I had committed to spending the next four years of my life, and far more money than I had. Regardless of any fear or doubt, though, I followed through on my commitment to this University and to say I am disappointed, as many have, would be to misrepresent my own feelings and the feelings of many of my peers to which I have spoken.
Rather, I am proud. I am proud of myself, my community, and the students who make up an institution that is not unique from any other.
In fact, to claim that Syracuse University is the only place where individuals feel it’s necessary to spread hateful messages, or even to claim that we are the only ones doing anything about it, is a naive claim. It is also an inaccurate expectation that anyone else, anywhere else, is any better. I will be the first to tell you, this is what it’s like.
However, that is not to say this is what it must be like.
Students are not forced to sit in and spend precious time in the Barnes Center and Kent Syverud, and the greater institution of Syracuse University does not have to meet the demands of the students spending days and nights there. What makes this movement, what makes any movement, an effective one, is the decision to fight against the oppressor anyways.
In this case, and the case of arguably all institutions of higher education, the oppressor is not just the one writing n*gger on the walls, it is not just the one drawing swastikas in the snow, it is not just the one screaming at students in the Physics Building, in Sadler Hall, in Haven Hall—it is the institution that has allowed it and the individuals that have chosen to be complicit in the wake of such incidents.
We are not inexperienced children and we are not hopeless minorities. We are not afraid of your empty threats and we are not counting on you to change anything. We may have sent you a list of demands, but fulfilled or not, we will continue to fight, because it won’t kill us to sit in the Barnes Center, miss a few classes, and build a community, but it might kill us if we don’t.
It may happen again, SU, in fact, it probably will, but take pride in knowing that the hatred is an act of fear. The complicity is an act of fear. And we are an act of strength, a show of power and community amongst the doubt of those who deem themselves above us. Fear not to stand your ground, for we are a vehicle for change.
Never stop fighting, never stop sitting, and always remember why you’re here.
With Great Pride,
A Student of the Movement