Editor’s Note: This was originally published on @GracieG’s blog, The Unarmed Education Mercenary. Check out her blog for excellent posts on higher education labor and the growing adjunct activist movement.
A few weeks ago, I worked myself into a proper outraged adjunct state to sit down and write a blog post. It would’ve been a good one, too, and I already had much of it mapped out in my head as I normally do before I ever sit down at the computer. Then something happened that made my adjunct anger and the issues I was thinking about seem mightily insignificant: Eric Garner’s killer was not charged though the medical examiner ruled that choking caused that man’s death. This set off a wave of protests worldwide and brought attention back to the Ferguson protests that had never ceased, only slipped from the front pages. The hashtags signifying #BlackLivesMatter and #HandsUpDontShoot blazed into the public consciousness. Social media filled with shots of marches, die-ins, and public displays of many kinds by folks who could no longer bear in silence the state brutality against black people in America. College and university students walked out and sounded off–this time no one needed to ask where America’s youth were.
From my rural location I watched millions take to the streets. Then the criticism began. So very many people hurt and hurting. I felt there was nothing for me to do. I wondered about my students from fall who had needed time every class to speak about Mike Brown. Would someone let them talk now? Were they shouting yet? I wanted to. However, I became acutely aware of speaking FOR others instead of letting them speak. I did not know what to say and so I simply said nothing here in this space until now. I used my social media accounts to boost information for demonstrators, to provide facts and figures to rebut those determined to discredit the movement. I stand with the people in the streets for this cause. For my students. For my friends. For Black Lives.
So much seems wrong in America right now. I watched citizens get tear-gassed with canisters made in the state where I live. I saw a child gunned down by police in seconds as he played in a park with a toy. I saw shooting victims denied care and left to die in the streets. I saw passersby heckle the demonstrations and hurl hate at them verbally. This has always been here in America, but now it is out in the open. The question has become, “What then shall we do about it?”
I say that all of us, activists especially, are called to stand together. I do not mean that I want to take over any other cause, but that many of our causes are interrelated. The Fight for 15 living wage crew, the Adjunct Activists, the Black Lives Matter movement, transgender rights, immigrant issues, the missing and murdered students in Mexico, the healthcare workers fighting for rights, the besieged public school teachers–all of these things are the causes of the people NOT the 1%. We should be side by side. Together is our strength. I have seen it shut down the mighty bridges of New York City and the wide, busy highways of Southern California. We live in a world where someone at Keane University thinks that buying a table for $219,000 for a select few administrative uses instead of spending money to hire permanent faculty (only 257 out of 1,472 are tenure track) or student support staff is perfectly fine. We live in the world where most of our lives are disposable, with some, such as Black lives, being viewed as even less than others. Those of us fighting all these separate fights, some of which intersect and compound the difficulties of involved individuals, need each other’s support and care. Together we can make something different, something better than we have ever had.
That is my New Year’s challenge: not to go back to some romanticized past, but to think in new ways and create new things that harm less and benefit more. It will not be easy but it will be worth it in the end. The power is with the people, if only we realize it in time.
If anyone gives demonstrators any grief over their revolutionary activities and asks them to calm down and only be peaceful, the following picture is more than useful. Justified outrage has its place.