That’s not my school

By Branwyn Wilkinson

Opinion Contributor

“Our school is trending for all the wrong reasons.” That was the last snapchat my friend sent me before we both went to sleep last Thursday night. The text was pasted over a picture of the Facebook trending list open on her laptop screen.

As I’m sure you all know by now, Canisius was trending last week after a black baby doll was hung both in an elevator and in a dorm window. Now a lot of people have heard of our small College, and they’ve probably associated it with the words “racist” or “hate crime.”

We even made BuzzFeed as an item on their “Running List of Reported Racist Incidents After Donald Trump’s Victory.” I always thought if our school was recognized by a national news source such as BuzzFeed, I would be excited. Because I thought it would be for something worth being excited about. Guess I was wrong.

I, along with so many other members of our community, are heartbroken over this incident. I know many people across our country have woken up every morning since last Wednesday wishing the last growing number of days had been only a nightmare. But with the danger that Trump’s Presidency made so real right here on campus, I think we Canisius students are wishing a little bit more than many. Because every morning, we wake up disgusted with the very place we decided to make home for four years of our lives.

Because racism and hate crimes? That’s not at all what Canisius is about. I want to make sure everyone knows that. The incidents with the doll were the actions of a few, and in no way reflect the general ideas or feelings of our community. We are outraged, and we are acting.

Last Wednesday night, we held a protest. Hundreds of students, including myself, sat on the cold, wet, ground for nearly two hours because we refused to stand for a Presidency that promotes such acts of hatred. We demanded that the students who were involved in the doll incident be removed from campus, and they were.

Various clubs and organizations have come together, holding meetings and creating safe spaces for any students who feel threatened by the acts of hatred in the wake of Trump’s election. Both our students of color and LGBTQ+ students expressed feeling unsafe last week.

We are banding together, regardless of race, sexuality, or gender. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the protest was the diversity of the students who attended and spoke up.

However, it is worth acknowledging that this is only a beginning. It is discouraging that it took such an awful, outrageous act to bring us all together. Issues of diversity and creating better race relations has been on our school’s agenda for a while. We should have been doing something about this sooner.

For now, our students leaders either have planned, or are planning, other events to promote unity and help students organize against injustice. School officials have been supportive. But this needs to last longer than a week, a month, or even the rest of the school year. It’s going to take hard work, and it’s going to take time to heal our community and fix the prejudice we let go unnoticed for too long.

Canisius, when viewed in this awful, racist light, is not the kind of school we chose. Just as many citizens are not proud to call themselves Americans right now, many Canisius students are not proud to admit that they go here.

But the Canisius that bands together to support and uplift all our students in the face of prejudice and hate is a school to be proud of. I fully believe our school will heal after the awful occurrence last Tuesday night and be better than we were before. But we need to keep acting.

It is not enough to protest once. We need to keep protesting, keep speaking up against prejudice and injustice, and keep meeting hate with love.

Remember when we were little and we all learned that words can hurt more than actions? That’s why a Trump Presidency is so scary. It is not the man himself who is frightening. It is his words and the power they have had in stirring up a force much stronger than himself in our country: hatred.

The incident that took place here, and the incidents that have taken place across the country this past week, show that it’s already started. We’re in for a rough few years. The way we will get through this is by meeting that hatred with love.

So far, Canisius has met the act of hatred on our campus with love, by standing with and supporting our students who feel targeted and unsafe. But Canisius is not the only place that needs to continue to do this. Our whole country does.

We may have been late in responding to the racial issues in our community, but late is still better than never. Just as the doll incident has been a call to action on campus, Trump’s election must be a call to action in our country.

The racism, prejudice, and bigotry that we never did fix before has been brought to light again. Now is the opportunity for us to come together in love and solidarity and finally fix it once and for all.

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