During Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Lowell Humanities Series presentation on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Boston College students and faculty involved with the Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism movement placed duct tape over their mouths in order to highlight and bring awareness to the institutional silencing of racial discourse occurring on BC’s campus. The participants stood with Coates, who discussed his ideologies on race in the United States and the story behind his recently published novel Between the World and Me.
Coates began his presentation by discussing the death of his Howard University friend Prince Carmen Jones Jr., who was killed by an officer from the Prince George’s County Police Department in a case of mistaken identity. In relating this story, Coates illustrated the physicality of entrenched racism and the ongoing oppression of black people in the United States. Coates then read an excerpt from his novel.
Following the reading, as audience members were invited to ask questions, students and faculty stood up and placed pieces of tape over their mouths.
According to a press release from Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism, “over 50 undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty stood up and placed duct tape with the words ‘Silenced’ and ‘Walk the Talk BC’ across their mouths to signify Boston College’s attempts to stifle anti-racist efforts on campus.”
The participants then proceeded to unfurl a sign thanking Coates for his efforts in pointing out institutional racism. For the duration of the Q&A time, the participants stayed standing.
The first to take the mic was graduate student Cedrick-Michael Simmons, who described his experiences being silenced on BC’s campus. Simmons, and the Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism movement, believes BC’s stance on social justice is hypocritical—though BC stands for social justice, he says, they still punish those on campus who protest in advocacy for change.
“When you’re doing this work and feeling that pain and you realize that institutional racism is felt by black and brown bodies,” Simmons began. “I would love to have a conversation about how do you keep going … What keeps you resisting in the wake of resistance?”
To this, Coates responded, “I have no other choice.”
The Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism movement began in response to the BC administration’s attitude towards social justice and campus-wide racial discourse and challenges the institution to self-reflect and examine its policies and procedures. It advocates for BC to consider the potential of such policies for the creation of an environment conducive for institutional racism and oppression.
“We can have endless dialogues and listen to numerous speakers on the topic of racism,” co-leader of the movement Sriya Bhattacharyya, GLSOE '16, explained. “But as members of this community, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and critically examine the policies and practices which uphold it in our institution. This is a problem all institutions experience in the country, and we must take action to change policies here on our campus, to Eradicate Boston College Racism.”
Ultimately, the movement seeks to bring light to inequity and facilitate greater social justice on BC's campus.
“Inspired by the success of Ta-Nehisi Coates in naming institutional racism in the United States, the movement hopes that they too can bring attention and action to the ways Boston College, like any institution of power, re-creates inequity for people of color,” the press release read in closing.