Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Underclassmen, don’t lose hope

CW / Caroline Simmons

I am a senior at The University of Alabama; my time here is quickly running out. As I prepare to leave this campus, I cannot help but feel disheartened at the direction our university and this state have taken.

I find myself thinking that if I were a freshman and this is what I saw unfold over my first year at the Capstone, I would completely lose hope that anything positive could come from being involved on campus over the next three years.

In many ways, that pessimistic position is warranted. We have only begun to get a sense of the fallout of the anti-DEI bill recently signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. We have only begun to see the ramifications of the assault on voting rights in this state, made worse most recently by the passing of Senate Bill 1. And we have only begun to see just how draconian the state will be in its interpretation of the state’s total abortion ban.

All these policies have major consequences on either the student body of this campus or the state as a whole. They are only the most recent examples in a long string of horrid decisions levied by those who have the most power in this state onto those that have the least. For anyone seeking progress and positive change on this campus, it is hard not to feel pessimistic about the future of this University and state.

It is understandable to feel discouraged after seeing student activists fight tooth and nail to protect diversity, equity and inclusion at the University only to come up empty-handed on the legislative front. Or after speaking to students on this campus who care so deeply about voting rights, but now do not know if they will be able to legally help their peers register. Or after seeing countless people across this state have their reproductive autonomy stripped even further away from them, with no productive avenue to challenge it.

If I were a freshman thinking of speaking out in favor of positive social change, I would feel a deep urge to simply say, “This is not worth it. I’m going to keep my head down, get my degree, and get out.”

To freshmen (or anyone on this campus) who may feel their sense of optimism or passion beginning to fade, allow me to leave you with one piece of advice: Don’t lose hope.

It is easy to lose sight of where we came from when obsessing over where we want to go. Sixty years ago, when Vivian Malone and James Hood faced down Gov. George Wallace in front of Foster Auditorium, they had every reason in the world to run away, but they stood firm and were the first Black students admitted into this school.

Just over 100 years ago, no woman could vote, and neither could many Black Americans struggling under the oppressive and grotesque regime of Jim Crow.

We have come so far from where we began, but this didn’t happen on its own, and not without decades upon decades of fighting to seemingly no avail.

When faced with adversity, it’s easy to turn your back, tuck your tail, and head for the hills. But true courage doesn’t come in times that are easy, but in times that are hard.

When contemplating whether you should fight or run, remember these words by Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “What choice do you have but to fight the good fight? You can’t throw up your hands and walk away. That’s not a choice, that’s an abdication. That’s giving up. … Change never happens on its own. Change happens because people care.”

The flame of hope is kept alive not by stories or legends of times come and gone, but by those who are living now. Those who take the time to stand up and fight when every odd is stacked against them. Those who know failure is a sure thing. Those who know there is nothing but inconvenience, contempt and hatred waiting on the other side of their opposition to injustice.

Just look around. We aren’t moving in the right direction. But every single person who acknowledges that fact and chooses to sit in silence instead of fighting is only driving a dagger deeper into the heart of hope.

It is your duty to stand and fight for what you know to be true, just and fair. As long as there are people walking the halls of this University and the streets of this state who refuse to give up hope, there will forever be a chance for a brighter tomorrow.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words still ring as true today as when he said them on the steps of the Alabama Capitol almost 60 years ago: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

It won’t bend without your help, though.

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