313: Black Lives Matter and the UC system

Thursday evening had a vigil and open mic on UC San Diego campus, hosted by the Black Student Union. Moving beyond the individual cases of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, it looked at extrajudicial violence against black Americans as a whole.

Candlelit vigil for black victims of police violence, UCSD campus.  December 11, 2014.
Candlelit vigil for black victims of police violence, UCSD campus.
December 11, 2014.

313 is an estimate of how many black individuals were killed by police, security, or vigilantes in 2012. In truth, we have no idea how many blacks are killed each year who were unarmed and/or not a threat. One speaker said that her cousin died in police custody- though the official cause of death was brain aneurysm, he may have been bashed in the head with a police baton.

The open mic was beautiful, heartbreaking. Many members of the Union spoke, as well as allies (including some from the medical student action the day before) of Latino background, standing in solidarity.

A running theme is that the black community nationwide has the same struggle as black students at UCSD. Less than two percent of students on campus are black, by far the lowest of any UC campus. This stems in part from the feeling that the community does not welcome that sort of diversity, and also the feeling that the admissions office is biased against admitting black applicants.

In closing, a list of individuals (many far younger than I) were read out, killed by police in the past two years. Members of the Union broke down in sobs, clutching once another. It struck me how utterly alone they must be on campus. You could fit the entire black freshman cohort in one mid-sized conference room. They face the indifference of students who do not relate to their struggle and may have anti-black prejudice themselves. The Union is crucial because it’s what keeps the shared identity intact, despite forces that wish to tear them apart.

Racism knows no bounds- it affects university students as much as low-level drug dealers or single mothers. No matter how accomplished or agreeable someone is, they can still be stopped, searched, intimidated, and harmed by police who only see skin color.

UCSD is a microcosm- the lack of outrage on campus reflects a lack of outrage in larger society. Seeing medical students take action mattered because a normally uninterested group showed up and acknowledged their place in stopping police violence. Seeing allies show up at the vigil is the same. There is no way to stop the pain from these mass injustices than to eliminate them. Ignorance and denial are no solution, merely a way to disrespect the dead and minimize the mourning.

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

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