It is easy to show dramatic, superficial support for an ideology. Each year I attend Stony Brook, the number of organized protests increases. This past week, students and faculty marched in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Last semester, they rallied in solidarity with immigrants after the Muslim ban and later that year against the university’s decision to cut funding to humanities programs. In 2015, students demonstrated at the Student Activities Center, chanting “Black Lives Matter” as they walked to the Administration Building.
It is easy – and important – to march with movements that we believe in. We show up at a time arranged by other activists with or without signs and stand together. It is simple and effective to call our representative and lodge our complaints and concerns in hope of some recourse. But how does this involvement change us? Do we leave the assembly ready to support our friends or do we shrug off the issue thinking that we have done all that we could? What can we do as individuals?
While we read articles about causes we identify with, we see the same approaches repeated. I see these solutions as passive. Sending money to support an organization does not leave me out of their physical efforts. When I join a protest, I meld into a mob. I can call my representative anonymously. Even if I give my name, I will not be remembered – my complaint will be. We are taught to be active players in the world of careers, rising up the ranks to achieve our vision of success. Our approach to activism should be the same.
Support the movements you believe in by attending their events on campus. Show your face and introduce yourself as a friend who can listen, contribute and take action. Write for The Statesman or other publications about your ideas. Almost every minority group and ideological movement has an organization on campus. If you support BLM, go to their meetings. If you stand with Dreamers, take part in Hispanic Heritage Month and Latin American Student Organization events. When you attend their programs and show an authentic solidarity, you make friends and learn more about what they actually care about.
When communities perform together, talk with each other and eat together, they bond and demonstrate real support for each other. The Festival of Lights is one of the most effective events on campus because students of all different backgrounds gather to revel in their similarities and in their differences. Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanzaa, Diwali and more winter celebrations are held together to demonstrate the strength of the interfaith community. The Office of Multicultural Affairs holds various “history month” events but student leaders should initiate the charge for unity. How great would it be if organizations on campus regularly collaborated to support multiple communities more effectively than we do on our own?
Last year, Stony Brook announced a plan to “support the development of a campus climate that values diversity, equity and inclusion in a way that promotes the ability of members of the community to thrive and to achieve their individual goals.” Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, began his speech to the Stony Brook community the same year by deriding the initiative.
Let us come together and prove to Shapiro that these were not empty words but a serious commitment to our values. When we support our friends as individuals, we create a strong community that can stand up to hate.