Protests flooded streets across the country and calls for justice spread on social media as thousands mourned the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police. The May 25 incident also sparked outrage among Southern students, many of whom spoke up about the tragedy.
According to CNN, former police officer Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck was originally charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but as of Wednesday June 3, the charges have been upgraded to second-degree murder. Additionally, the three other officers who were present at the scene of Floyd’s killing are now facing charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Though the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement started in 2013, it has gained significant momentum over the past week as many on social media continue to demand justice for the 2020 killings of Floyd, Ahmud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Clinical Psychology Sophomore Karissa Osorio is one of the students who spoke out via social media against the racial injustice that many have experienced, including her own family as her mother’s side of the family is black. On social media, she shared multiple ways in which others can help the BLM movement.
“I have shared links of petitions that people can sign to help us get one step closer to justice for those who have died at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them,” Osorio said. “[I] posted books that people can read to educate themselves, as well as dates, times and locations of BLM protests. I’ve been consistent with showing those on my social media what is happening in our country, whether it be police brutality or people at protests.”
Osorio said the Black Lives Matter movement has become a voice for pain and struggle that the black community has had to deal with for far too long.
“The most important thing we can do to support is to move forward together, to remember the purpose of why the movement was created, and not get sidetracked from our goal,” Osorio said. “That goal is change…Voices need to be heard. People are tired of seeing injustice.”
Junior history major Xavier Snyder lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and joined the protests in his city last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Though the demonstration started out peacefully on Friday, Snyder said as the night progressed it eventually became more violent. Protesters began breaking windows, destroying ATM machines, spraying graffiti on walls and even started some fires. Police, standing in a straight line, tried holding protesters back by shooting pepper balls and tear gas.
“It [the tear gas] hurts. It really hurts,” Snyder said. “Your mouth burns. Your eyes burn. You try to wipe your eyes, but the gas is on your hands, too. It’s a horrible experience.”
Snyder left the scene at 11 p.m., but came back the following day.
On Saturday, the National Guard arrived to aid police, he said. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implemented a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. The curfew has since been extended every night until June 8, according to the [Louisville] Courier-Journal.
“I never thought in my life that I would see my city that way,” Snyder said. “It looked like an aftermath of a warzone.”
According to the Associated Press, as of June 2, more than 40 arrests had taken place in the Louisville protests. One man was fatally shot.
Joey Rocha, a nursing alumnus, also joined the protests, but throughout New York City. He said protesters flooded Times Square, filling the streets with noise. He also witnessed cops and protesters taking a knee – a famous symbol against the systemic oppression of African-American people in the United States.
“I decided to protest because the night before I had a really good conversation with my friends of color about rioting versus protesting,” Rocha said. “… I realized that, yes, violence isn’t good but when change doesn’t happen quickly this tends to be the result. … So I went out because I want my friends to experience the same life I do — where I don’t feel scared about most police interactions.”
Snyder, who was specially upset by the death of Taylor, says the protests are helping bring attention to the racial issues in America.
“We’re making tiptoe, baby-steps progress,” Snyder said. “It’s better than nothing, but I don’t think it’s doing as much as it should. There will be no peace in the streets because there is no justice.”
However, most students have not attended any demonstrations. An Instagram poll conducted by the Accent found that out of the 214 respondents, only 20 have actively joined a protest. Instead, most respondents have used social media to speak for the Black Lives Matter movement.
An example of this is English Sophomore Paula Macena. Macena made a spoken word video called “I Pledge Allegiance,” which highlighted the injustices people of color face every day. Within three days, the video received more than 4,000 views.
“I’ve seen a lot of people being against the protests and the rise going on,” Macena said. “But for me, it makes complete sense because this country has never been in favor of people of color. [So] my main goal right now is just to spread awareness about what’s going on.”
Though Macena has not joined a protest, she has taken supplies, such as masks and milk, to the demonstrations.
Additional students have also actively spoken out via their social media platforms, posting educational resources, donation links and updates. On Tuesday, many shared the #BlackOutTuesday hashtag, which aimed to show solidarity and support to the black community.
Besides advocacy from individual students, Southern’s ethnic clubs have also spoken up through their social media accounts. On Sunday, the Black Christian Union Club (BCU), through Instagram, called for its members to stand against injustice.
“As an organization that supports and centers itself around uplifting and celebrating black culture and history amongst the body, we are saddened and we acknowledge the racism and injustices that have been in our society,” the post read. “Please let’s stand together during this fight of injustice by speaking up and supporting our black brother and sisters.”
On the same day, the Asian Club posted a picture on its Instagram stating “Asian for Black Lives Matter.” Similarly, the following day, the Latin American Club (LAC) shared a post that read “Tu lucha es mi lucha.” (Your fight is my fight.).
The School of Journalism and Communication also joined the social movement by writing an open letter to its students. The letter, which was a response to the death of Floyd and the ongoing injustices of the American system, was shared on all of their social media platforms
“We recognize racism is a sin issue—a problem of the human heart,” the letter read. “For this reason, we also pray for our country and the chasm that divides us. We stand in solidarity with our black family, friends, and neighbors; and as advocates of constructive communication in our society, we are committed to speaking up and taking action to dismantle systemic racism and injustice against black and brown bodies in the United States of America.”
On Tuesday, Southern also released a letter from President David Smith sharing his response to the recent events.
“We stand with those speaking out against the heartless indifference that both sheds innocent blood and turns a blind eye to ongoing pain,” Smith wrote. “..;Through His power and strength, we are called to do our part, to lift up our hurting brothers and sisters, to embrace them, and to unite together as the family of God.”
Senior Advisor for Diversity Stephanie Guster, Vice President for Spiritual Life Joseph Khabbaz and Associate Chaplain Anna bennet also joined the president with words of condolences and encouragement.
Theology sophomore Austin Bates says that simply expressing one’s anger on social media without taking any positive action, proves ineffective. On the contrary, he says the most effective form of raising awareness is peaceful protesting and donating to organizations that promote policies that keep police just.
“The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has encouraged me that there is always recourse for the racism I’ve faced,” Bates said. “As a mixed person of color (POC) and as a Christian, it’s my duty to stand for others. The most important thing we can do to support the BLM movement is to seek justice and love those who have been hurt by standing up for them.”
Organizations that are receiving donations include the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The American Civil Liberties Union, Fair Fights and Know Your Rights Camp.
According to Bates, it is time to take responsibility as Christians, especially Adventists, in fighting for the rights of the oppressed and changing the way injustices are treated.
“As a new generation of leaders steps in, we have the chance to finally change the way our church has turned a blind eye to injustice in the world for far too long,” Bates said. “We have to stand up without wavering and not give in. And above all, we need to surrender our egos, prejudices and preferences to God and follow His will.”