This article originally appeared on NYU Local’s website and is reposted here with permission.
In the past two weeks, we have seen the nation grapple with the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions, demonstrating frustration through protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of vocal objectors to public spaces in dissent of what they call the American leniency of its police forces through systemic, violent racism that continues to plague impoverished communities.
In response to the outspoken reaction, the NYU Black Students Union has made plans to stage a die-in—a popular form of silent protest against wrongful death—for this Wednesday, December 10, in the NYU Bobst Library. Students will lie on the floor in silence for a long time.
In response to the upcoming BSU demonstration, outspoken members of the NYU community have made objections to the die-in, and the Eric Garner protests in general, by taking to the most respectable platform the vigilant millennial knows how to use: social media.
These Facebook comments and tweets have spurred a terribly disconcerting discussion surrounding race relations in America, the American judicial system, the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and white privilege.
On both sides of the argument, we discover a saddening reality present among a certain population of the American youth (and adults—they’re guilty too) who commit, themselves, offenses as egregious as the inertial events that have initiated the discussion: spewing and ranting offensive opinions with hardly any factual backing, and doing so behind the protection of anonymity, or the defense of the natural informality of social media.
Here are some common threads that have stained the conversation over the past two weeks, found on Twitter, Facebook and NYU Secrets:
Heads up to the “protestors” at NYU, especially those ones “protesting” in private spaces where no one in the general public (especially cops) will even see you: you aren’t changing anything. You aren’t improving anything. You’re whining and bringing a negative light to the entire cause. You wanna change something? Get into politics. Become a cop. Stop laying on the fucking ground and expecting the world to change for you because the Internet told you you deserve it. [via NYU Secrets]
Will be stepping on people in Bobst if they are in my way. It’s goddam finals week. [via NYU Secrets]
Anyone who protests anything is a total ASSHOLE. IT ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING. YOU ARE ANNOYING. [via Twitter]
They [protesters] really could care less about the decision, it is an excuse to riot, cause mayhem, loot and damage. [via Facebook]
The people who are opposing today’s protests would probably be up in arms over the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I think that says enough about where they’re coming from. [via NYU Secrets]
Can’t wait for people like OP to die off so we can make real progress. [via Facebook]
PLEASE check your White Privilege. [via Twitter]
I will make no specific refutations to the arguments made above, for doing so holds no place in a journalistic setting. There is no necessity to do so, which would be stooping to the level of courage it takes to submit a comment through an anonymous posting service.
The most disheartening wrinkle in the outlandish activity being seen on social media is that most of the people who are taking to the comments sections and Secrets pages are not just trolling—they are people who feel that they hold a stake in the argument, and are conducting themselves in the least honorable way possible.
These conversations, set apart from those of which are conducted in an intelligent manner and in a proper setting, only handicap our ability to progress as a community. To deny ourselves the right to change is to deny ourselves the right to be wholly American.
If there is anything to be learned from the strong, public action of the Eric Garner demonstrations, it’s this: voices that find the courage to speak out publicly for things they believe, with no mask or caricatured veil, are the ones that are heard.
And it is those that deserve an applause, not a shaming.
Note: The die-in that was originally planned for Monday, December 8, has been consolidated with the Black Students Union’s die-in for Wednesday, December 10, at noon on the main floor of Bobst.