A student at the University of Michigan “took a knee” for 21 hours in protest of “all inequality.”
UMich alum and master’s degree candidate Dana Greene Jr. felt inspired by football players who protested this past weekend by kneeling during the national anthem at their football games.
“It was just sitting with me, that I had to do something,” said Greene, who marched down to the campus center and promptly knelt down by some chalked text that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
Speaking to Detroit News, Greene says no one even knew what he was doing until he sent an open letter explaining his action to university president Mark Schlissel. Greene, who described his actions as an “attention-getting move—a conversation starter,” says that it took people “three to four hours” before people took him up on the conversation he wanted to start.
“I wanted people to ask why?” Greene said. “We focus too much on the how of protests, and not enough on why people are protesting. Everything in my life, personally, is going great. But this wasn’t about me.”
He said that the “why” wasn’t merely about how black, Hispanic or Muslim students were treated on campus, but inequality in all its various forms.
Onlookers who finally noticed what he was doing brought a canopy to provide him with shelter from the sun and even shielded him from view when nature called. However, he had to cut short his protest from going on for 24 hours because he had to take a number two.
“By that point, some people had been out there 11, 12 hours,” Greene said. “I was trying to get comfortable, and just couldn’t. I needed to sleep. And my attitude was, if I couldn’t go on, they shouldn’t have to, either.”
Greene, who has no online presence on Twitter or Facebook, couldn’t personally track the attention his protest had garnered on either platform. As Detroit News reports, the protest had “taken on a life of its own” with a #WhyIKneel hashtag. Now that his protest is over, Greene hopes that it will start a nationwide dialogue.
“I want people to talk deeply about the issues. People need to sit down and have real conversations,” he said. “I don’t really count hashtags or Facebook in that. People need to look each other in the face and talk.”
The letter Greene sent to UMich president Schlissel shows little in the way of “conversation” and reads much more like a reprimand, voicing his discontent over inequality in the United States.
“During the course of the last year I have watched as anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-Latinx, and anti-immigrant rhetoric has raced across our campus and across our country and I can no longer stand silently by,” he wrote, stating that he is kneeling because he is “tired of doing nothing,” and wants the “campus and this country to acknowledge a fact that I know to be true.”