This is our campus, not the Klan’s

December 19, 2017

Crystal Ganatra reports on an outpouring of solidarity after a racist act in Amherst.

MEMBERS OF the Amherst community in Western Massachusetts have seen reminders of the frightening actions of the far right, emboldened by the White Supremacist-in-Chief. But Amherst College, like any community, hoped that such hate would never appear on its own campus.

In September, however, Amherst College went through a frightening sequence of events. For one, a noose was left on the football field.

The Amherst chief of police sent out an e-mail notifying the campus of the noose, assuring all that they would do all in their power to find the perpetrators. Overnight, the student response was immediate in condemnation of this heinous, anti-Black act. The next morning, Amherst College woke to buildings across campus plastered with posters, which read "This is our campus, not the Klan's."

Students from the Black Student Union, alongside other groups and members of the Direct Action Coordinating Committee (DACC), quickly organized a demonstration on the quad outside Valentine Dining Hall. Over time, onlookers joined in, and the circle grew larger and larger as hands were joined.

Amherst College
Amherst College

After a moment of silence, student protesters were asked to come together in the Octagon building to debrief and plan next steps for moving toward long-term goals of resisting all forms of white supremacy.

The Octagon open debrief included students affiliated with many groups across campus. Students shared their thoughts about the noose incident, the demonstration and what they thought would be tangible steps forward.

Members of the DACC emphasized that racialized violence is connected to the fossil fuel and private prisons industries which disproportionately affect low-income, marginalized communities--so part of opposing racism can be a campaign to push those who control Amherst College's endowment to divest from fossil fuels and any connection to companies invested in private prisons.

DACC later held a "Climate Camp" to address these issues. Climate Camp came after the college's fall break and included debates, ongoing disaster relief fundraising, a rally outside of a Board of Trustees meeting, presentations from UMass permaculture gardeners, a panel discussion on climate organizing featuring water protectors and five-college divestment campaign organizers, plus an open-mic on the first-year quad.

Amherst College President Biddy Martin's response to the appearance of the noose was to send a campus-wide e-mail condemning the act and calling on members of the community to stand against hate and stand up for one another.

Our response should be not only to condemn these acts of hate and call on the community to stand up, but to ask: "What does standing up look like?"

Standing up looks like ordinary people in solidarity with one another against all forms of oppression. Standing up looks like coalitions of working-class people coming together in mass mobilizations. Standing up looks like a growing political and class consciousness that can lead us to an altogether new and more equitable society.

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