Hundreds of students and faculty walked out of classes on Wednesday to call for more action from the Boston College administration following multiple racially motivated incidents this weekend.
The walkout is part of a week of student demonstrations, including the Organizing Event Against Racism on Monday night and a solidarity march organized by FACES (an anti-racism organization dedicated to “challenging racism through conversation”) and UGBC called Silence is STILL Violence at noon on Friday.
Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered at the Academic Quad facing Gasson Hall at 11:40AM for the peaceful demonstration, which lasted about 20 minutes.
The event was led by student activists from Eradicate BC Racism, who held a sign that read “No such thing as neutrality— #BCTakeAStand.”
Members of Eradicate BC stated the walkout was planned as a day for the community to “stand against racism and hate and all the microaggressions,” as well as to “stand for love.”
The event’s opening speaker asserted that if St. Ignatius was at BC today, he would stand beside her.
“The very first principle of the Catholic social teaching is the dignity of the human being,” she said. “Over the weekend, the dignity of every black student at BC was threatened.”
“Boston College, my university, has told me to set the world aflame,” she continued. “To set the world aflame is a call to action. To set the world aflame is a call not to be silent in times of injustices and oppression, [but] to speak up when the institution that we know and love is not fighting for us. We want BC to stand by what they taught us and to stand by all of their students.”
A number of individual groups, organizations, and schools within BC have issued their own responses, including the Montserrat Coalition, UGBC, Office of Residential Life, and most recently the Lynch School of Education (LSOE).
“One of the most powerful responses to such messages is for people of good will to stand up and communicate to our African American colleagues that we will not allow those who hold racist views to exclude, demean and threaten them here in our school,” the letter to LSOE students read. “The leadership of the school would like to reassure anyone who is feeling threatened that we will stand with you in the face of attempts to create a hostile environment and attempts to gather people in tacit or explicit alignments against you. We welcome divergent opinions, but we do not welcome attempts to threaten members of our community.”
The administration made an official statement on last weekend’s incidents, however, many student leaders feel that the statement did not do enough to directly address the racism AHANA students experience on campus.
Eradicate BC Racism member and graduate student Howard Huang called out the administration, specifically in regards to a statement by BC spokesman Jack Dunn, who told The Heights in 2015 after previous demonstrations that “the supposition that BC is an institutionally racist place is a difficult argument to make.”
“We know more than anyone else that racism is alive on this campus,” continued Huang. “Why do people feel emboldened to use the n-word, or to make slave jokes, or to tell their hall mates that black lives don’t matter? They know that they won’t be held accountable.”
George Boateng, MCAS ‘18, said that if the university culture is going to change, students need the support of the administrators.
“BC has failed, not just its black or LGBTQ students, but BC has failed its white students because BC is not teaching them to be empathetic,” said Boateng.
Boateng called for the university to develop a ten-year plan to address the racism and hate directed at certain communities on campus.
Between speakers, members of Eradicate BC Racism led chants, including “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace, no racism at BC.”
Another chant, “Black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!,” was modified several times to include that the lives of Latino, Puerto Rican, trans, LGBTQ, women’s, and AHANA people matter as well.
As the rally came to a close, attendants were invited to contribute a message or design to a banner the organization will use in the future following the event and called on to continue the conversation with their teachers, classmates, and friends.
The closing speaker thanked everyone who participated in the walkout.
“You proved to me that my life matters,” she said as the crowd cheered. “Every one of you today proved to me that in the next couple of years, Boston College will not be racist. I have hope that everything will be better. But it takes you, and you, and you; it takes all of us to make this school better.”