Why We Need to Have Conversations About Violence this Fall Semester

By Dena Samuels

Many different communities and campuses in the U.S. have reached out this summer to figure out how to heal themselves and their communities as the fall semester begins. I have had the opportunity to speak with many campus members who have felt little or nothing is being done on their campus. Any protest on a college campus is not in and of itself a protest against the campus, but rather a protest against the violence in the U.S. (and beyond).

What I have learned in my discussions with many campuses is that those who are most affected by the violence (folks who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or folks of color, among others) are feeling excluded when that conversation does not happen. To build culturally inclusive campuses, we must take action by coming together in community. If this conversation is not happening, it’s more than a missed opportunity; it is in a sense condoning the violence.

A successful conversation would not jump directly from the violence straight to action. We need to first unearth the very challenging emotions that arise from the violence. In your conversation, I suggest asking campus members, “What does the violence mean to you?” “What emotions arise every time the news gives us another #saytheirname?” For those who say it has little if anything to do with them, we can ask “where is the disconnect?” We can spend time unpacking that detachment, focusing on the system of privilege that allows some to feel less affected, and the notion that when one suffers, we all suffer. For until we are all feeling the impact of the violence, none can heal, and solutions will continue to be ineffective. Moreover, engaging in the tired conversation about who or what is to blame for the violence has not solved the problem of violence in the U.S.

I invite you to go instead to the challenging places we don’t want to go, to share our vulnerabilities and in so doing, build relationships across our differences. Coming from a place of deep connection and authenticity, we can and must build a culture of belonging, acceptance, and peace. This is how we will make progress.

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