Black Lives Matter activists at Dartmouth College are circulating a lengthy letter justifying their decision to tear down a display honoring police officers. Ironically, the letter argues that activists would be “silenced” if they did not actively suppress the speech of others.
On Friday, May 13, Dartmouth’s College Republicans put up a display, which was approved beforehand by the school, that read “Blue Lives Matter” and honored police who were killed on duty. Within a few hours, Black Lives Matter activists responded by tearing it down and putting up their own posters denouncing the display for “co-opting” their movement. They then stood watch over the memorial, refusing to let the College Republicans reclaim their reserved space.
The College Republicans strongly denounced the stunt as an act of censorship, so in response, the Black Lives Matter activists started circulating a statement of their own. The letter defends Friday’s censorship as well as an incident in November in which they paraded through the library and harassed students there. The anonymous authors say they simply “reclaimed” the billboard from College Republicans, and they denounce bystanders at the school for allegedly perpetuating violence against black people by not joining them.
“Fuck your comfort, there is no such thing as neutral existence,” it says. “Sitting in the library with your headphones in, intensifies this violence against people of color, muting the voices of the movement, the cries of your peers, and the history of inequality.”
The activists’ statement, in full, is reproduced below:
Today, Friday May 13th the Dartmouth College Republicans reserved a central bulletin board in Collis Atrium. On this board the Dartmouth College Republicans posted the slogan “Blue Lives Matter” FOUR times. By co-opting a movement intended to protect the livelihood of Black people, Blue Lives Matter” & #AllLivesMatter facilitates the erasure of black lives. This slogan denies that black bodies are subjected to disproportionate state violence. This has nothing to do with individual police officers.
Over the past several terms, in Collis the black lives matter installation was defaced, and the signs outside of the gender inclusive bathroom were ripped off of the walls. On our campus a native woman and man were egged after a silent protest, countless women of color have been assaulted, people of color have been called racial slurs, physically threatened, and aggressively approached in public, private, and over social media.
The #blacklivesmatter protest in the fall affirmed black existence, humanity, and resilience in light of the oppressive reality here at Dartmouth. This is our reality; we are the voices of ALL people of color in classes. It is inescapable as social media, especially yik-yak, is saturated with racial slurs. This morning the bulletin boards in “The Center for Student Involvement” informed the campus this space is NOT for us . Collis is intended to be a home base for all student activities, however is a site of violence.
This campus is toxic.
Our goal is to illuminate the severity of the violence people of color face on this campus. In not challenging this oppression against our bodies, instead reproducing this narrative is actively partaking in this violence. Silencing our narratives. If we didn’t take down the display we would be reproducing a violent narrative that works to silence us in masses.
People are tired. People of color are tired of being made inferior to their peers. We are tired of conservative rhetoric reproducing the same racial stereotypes that have positioned our bodies in a violent, inhumane fashion since slavery.
We have reclaimed the board. We are reclaiming our space, in Collis, in Class, and on this Campus. We have proclaimed “Black Lives Matter”—we do in fact matter, and we are here.
Fuck your comfort, there is no such thing as neutral existence. Sitting in the library with your headphones in, intensifies this violence against people of color, muting the voices of the movement, the cries of your peers, and the history of inequality. Posting Blue Lives Matter reproduces the idea that All lives matter, again intensifying the violence against people of color. Invalidating individual realities.
We occupy this space, in front of the bulletin board, to guarantee our presence at this institution. Reposting Blue Lives Matter reproduces this violent narrative against people of color, by silencing us. We will not be silenced.
We have cried, but we will persevere regardless of the complacent conservative faction on campus, we will be okay. We need to be okay, so we can graduate from this institution with a Dartmouth degree. Face it that’s why we came here, and at the end of the day we still are here—at Dartmouth, in the Ivy League, in college, in this nation. We aren’t going anywhere.
It is your turn, stand in solidarity with us. Do not allow the cries of your peers, your friends be silenced.
Peace, Love, Solidarity,
Existence is Resistance