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“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Greg Madrid, residence hall director for Hill and Complex, chose these words, first spoken by Martin Luther King Jr., to sum up this year’s Silence/Oppression Day Events.
On Sept. 23, students who chose to participate were not allowed to speak from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. to pay tribute to those who suffer oppression in silence. 2009 saw the largest turnout ever for the third annual event of such nature, with more than 200 students taking part. The day saw a wall of ethnic and racial slurs written on index cards torn down and numerous events on campus were held to show support for the victims of racism.
The day culminated in the Speak Out Against Hate, hosted in Buckman Theater. The Speak Out consisted of student and Residential Life speakers describing their experiences with oppression. This was followed by a march on campus, from the Student Center to Mountainview and back, during which students chanted anti-hate slogans. Examples of such slogans included “U-G-L-Y. hate ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly!”
Sophomore Jillian Ebanks, who attended the Speak Out, said that she attended because, “No one should be oppressed, and all should be treated equally. I say this from my own experiences as a person of color.”
Ebanks then ascended to the stage and expressed her feeling that, “Those who try to speak out are treated worse than those who stay silent.”
When asked later about how she thinks the Speak Out could affect the climate on campus, Ebanks did not sound very hopeful.
“With the exception of those who wore the Silence/Oppression shirts, most students seem indifferent,” she said.
Ebanks’ lack of optimism may very well have a basis in the lack of interest in the Speak Out, as only 13 students were in attendance, as opposed to the 2008 Speak Out, which had roughly double that number of students. However, it is worth noting that so far this year has not seen the type of hateful incidents which marred the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year. Nonetheless, many agreed the campus climate on racial issues has much room for improvement.
“This is first year partaking in the Speak Out, but I felt it was important for more people to get involved to try to improve the campus climate,” junior Katelyn Husser said of the event. She believed the event was “a unique opportunity to point out and stamp out racial hatred.”