editorial board

Since Wednesday, there have been two protests on Emory’s campus in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two highly publicized cases of unarmed black men killed by police officers. In each of these cases, a grand jury declined to indict the police officer involved with the killing, inciting outrage across the country.

On Wednesday night, a crowd of protesters marched from Asbury Circle to the intersection of Clifton Road and Eagle Row, chanting slogans commonly associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, such as “no justice, no peace.” Protesters physically laid down in the intersection, disrupting traffic and evoking images of Brown’s body, which was unmoved from the place where he died for hours after he was shot. On Thursday afternoon, around 200 protesters participated in a “Die-In” in front of Cannon Chapel, featuring speakers from the Candler School of Theology and the Emory community.

We acknowledge that many of us cannot relate to the many acts of aggression our black peers face daily. However, we stand as allies to this cause and hope that our voice contributes to the dialogue surrounding oppression and institutional racism. By no means are we trying to speak for others, and we hope to try our best to stand in solidarity with members of our community. We hope this staff editorial represents our commitment to the movement.

We at the Wheel applaud the protesters and the protests’ organizers for their initiative and courage. These protests are a timely and compelling example of constructive and productive disruption. This disruption was all the more impactful because of the stark contrast it created with Emory’s typically serene, quiet campus – both events utilized the human body to literally stop Atlanta’s traffic, using symbolism as a means to raise awareness. These protests were not solely about Brown’s and Garner’s deaths; these were protests against the systematic ​and institutional oppression of black people, a calamity that occurs across the United States.

Aside from drawing public attention to the mounting injustice being perpetrated across the country, the protests also called on those who have remained silent on the issue to speak up. Protesters compared silence to the tacit approval of institutionalized racism and asserted that silence is a form of passive violence because it violates the ethical injunction that obliges us to speak out against this barbarism.

Furthermore, the fact that the protest was organized on Facebook attests to the increasing influence of social media and its potential to bring about change in the world.

While we acknowledge the importance of speaking out against injustice, we also recognize that certain members of the community – especially those who have not experienced institutionalized racism in the same way – might feel hesitant to engage in the discourse brewing on campus for fear that their perspectives could be overlooked as irrelevant or deemed offensive. These fears are understandable but, instead of being a deterrent from participation, we believe that members of the community should speak up while being sensitive of what they say.

​We applaud Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair for doing just this. In his all-Emory email regarding the protests and open expression, he not only acknowledged the existence and relevancy of the protests, but he encouraged them to continue. We call on President James W. Wagner to follow Dean Nair and make a statement on these very important instances of community outcry. As the president of our University, President Wagner symbolizes our institution, and it is imperative that he, too, stand with our community in such trying times.

The two protests on campus have been effective in drawing attention to this issue. We hope that the Emory community will continue advocating for equal rights for black people and all members of minority groups who face oppression and micro-aggressions on a daily basis. These protests have set a significant precedent for the future, and we are glad to be a part of a community that demands justice and peace. Such representations of activism are more than just members of our community coming together in solidarity of Brown’s and Garner’s deaths – they are reminders that black lives matter.

Let us also remember the civil and human rights history that exists on the ground we walk upon. Atlanta has an important and profound history with the black Civil Rights movement. Atlanta was the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., held some of the first historically black colleges and universities and is still the home of civil rights legends like U.S. Representative John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. A portion of Vivian’s papers actually reside at Emory, and several professors engage and teach the history and philosophy behind civil and human rights on our own campus. This city has a tradition of peaceful, thoughtful protest, and members of the Emory community have followed in these footsteps. ​

It will take time for institutional change to happen, but members of our community are inciting social change within our own institution, and this is a necessary first step to nationwide revolution. We encourage Emory to keep fighting – and to stay angry until justice is served.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

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The Emory Wheel was founded in 1919 and is currently the only independent, student-run newspaper of Emory University. The Wheel publishes weekly on Wednesdays during the academic year, except during University holidays and scheduled publication intermissions.

The Wheel is financially and editorially independent from the University. All of its content is generated by the Wheel’s more than 100 student staff members and contributing writers, and its printing costs are covered by profits from self-generated advertising sales.