Racial discrimination across the country places a long overdue call to action upon Pepperdine as a community.
The Pepperdine bubble has had enough.
Hate speech and threats motivated by racism aggravated the insular experience of our Malibu lives. People began to confront racism in Ferguson, then in Baltimore and in Charleston. Soon enough, racism was confronted by college campuses around the nation, including Pepperdine.
People are no longer willing to wait and remain only observers to this crime. On Friday, Nov. 13, more than 100 students participated in a peaceful protest in the Caf. Students held signs representing different minorities and calling for Pepperdine to stand by its mission of embracing diversity and demonstrating Jesus’ love in these trying times. Demonstrators stood in silence with linked arms as busy students milled around.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’” Let us not wait any longer than we already have to act and to do what is right.
Everyone’s background is important in this dialogue and in the battle against racism. We are situated on the precipice of history, aware of what we need to do in order to change the world into a place that cherishes and protects our fellow humans. It is not time for silent civil servants. Progress will only continue if the voice of love and justice can be heard in our classrooms, our administration and our nation. Today, our generation’s voices are magnified through the power of social media. Still, we need every voice to speak out if we expect to be heard.
In light of the Yik Yak racism on Pepperdine’s campus, and protests against institutional racism on campuses like the University of Missouri, Waves moved into action by forming a “Waves Against Ignorance” group that planned a peaceful protest Friday.
The following Monday, President Andrew K. Benton gave a speech he originally delivered at Smothers Theatre on Oct. 8, advocating for change, “It will take everyone in this room and on this campus to achieve what we hope to inspire,” he said.
Benton began his speech with an apology for not speaking up when action was being taken. He informed the student body that administration voiced concerns to the LA County Sheriff’s Department when professors reported discrimination in Malibu for driving while black. Benton informed the student body that measures had been taken to discover the identities of the students who posted racist comments on Yik Yak. He firmly asserted the importance of speaking up against injustice no matter who you are. We all have a call to action. We all have a seat at this sit-in.
Amidst the social turbulence caused by the Civil Rights Movement 50 years ago, Curtis Mayfield sang, “People get ready / there’s a train a-coming / you don’t need no baggage / you just get on board / all you need is faith / to hear the diesels humming / don’t need no ticket / you just thank the Lord.” Regardless of your religious, social or economic background, you have a part to play in this narrative. We do not excuse those in the 60s who were passive in the fight against racism because that was “just how things were.” Neither should we excuse such passivity now. It may be a different decade, but the dream of equality envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr. remains the same.
With the aid of student voices, Waves Against Ignorance aims to remove symbols of oppression like the Christopher Columbus statue and the wood-carven mural in the Caf, and add cultural sensitivity training for students, faculty and staff.
Not all our voices are from the same place, but when we take the time to inform ourselves, we open our hearts to the possibility of a future in which racism cannot thrive under the shelter of our own ignorance.
“We will not play host to hateful, inciting speech,” Benton said. The silence of a filled Smothers Theatre broke into applause.
The conversation is not over yet; it has just begun. It is our responsibility to not let it die. The first step to keeping it alive is showing verbal support. If we don’t stand for change, we are part of the problem. The next step is to show a willingness to sacrifice, to take time and energy to support change in our actions. Benton announced there is a new email address that he would personally read regarding student and faculty opinions on the issue: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can continue to show support through peaceful protests, sit-ins, walk outs, social media and dialogues — the little things will become enough to tackle racism and other injustices on our campus.
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