President Bell, do the right thing


Caroline Game, Guest Columnist

“UA somehow made a statement about Black people and racism without mentioning Black people or racism.” – Claire Ponder, University of Alabama alumna

If any one thing reveals ignorance, it’s the lack of precise language. President Stuart Bell’s email is no exception. The wording used in the University-wide email sent on May 31 failed to recognize the very prevalent issue at hand: Black lives are not being valued in the United States. 

If you think that stating that Black lives matter is somehow denying that all lives matter, then you are denying that systemic racism is prevalent in society. Although we have abolished slavery and segregation, the latter only 66 years ago, their abolition does not allude to society presently being free from racial oppression. 

Public universities are not to take political stances. However, there is no political agenda to protect when acknowledging that the Black community has been and continues to be persecuted within this country. Society needs to recognize white privilege enough to see that Black men and women are being brutally murdered because of the color of their skin. This is a humanitarian issue. Is the University concerned with losing funding or donors if Bell says that Black lives matter? Does our university care more about money than the lives of their Black students and employees?

As a white woman, I recognize the privilege I carry in writing these statements. I am not in any way a victim of the oppression I speak of, but I have a visceral reaction to the pain I have witnessed in the Black community. My Black friends and many of the University’s Black students are being dehumanized by the actions in our country, as well as on our campus. When reflecting specifically on the University’s response, some of my friends pointed out the glaring lack of specificity in Bell’s statement.

“Instead of discussing how voices of diverse communities are important, we should be discussing how voices of our Black people are important,” said Marcus Johnson, a sophomore majoring in musical theatre.

While the wording of a single email isn’t the University’s only issue when it comes torace, I do believe it is important to critique. Bell is supposed to be representing the entire student body. By using the word “death,” we are denying that George Floyd was murdered and was a victim of racial oppression. This is unacceptable.

By neglecting to ever say the word “Black” or “Black community,” we are failing to recognize that these oppressions are specifically targeting our Black brothers and sisters. This is unacceptable. 

“Bias, violence, and acts of hate” are all products of systemic racism and white supremacy. We should be naming them as such. This is unacceptable.

The police departments in this country were built off of systemic racism and are the crux of the issue. It is hurtful and deeply offensive to name them as a resource when addressing a Black man’s murder by four policemen. This is unacceptable.

There is no mention of Black people or racism in this email. There is also no mention of actual resources to help the Black community. Where are the petitions? Where are the places to donate? Who should people call to demand justice? Why no mention of the UA Black Faculty and Staff Association as a resource for your Black students? This is unacceptable.

This school was built by enslaved people and many of our buildings are named after KKK members and Confederate war leaders. We see this systemic racism continue in the not-so-secret Machine that controls and influences student government on campus, and the policies that do not represent “so many members of our community.” This is unacceptable.

We must expect more from the president of our university. We must expect better. We must expect change. 

President Bell, I sincerely hope you will take all of this into account when writing your next email on this matter. Sixty years from now, do you want to be remembered in a similar light as George Wallace, or do you want to change the trajectory of this university? What side of history would you like to be on? In 2020, is the University of Alabama actually going to begin dismantling systemic racism on our campus? Is this University going to commit to sparking the change we want to see in our society? Or are we just going to continue to only show up for our Black students when they’re on the football field? Ask yourself: What should be acceptable?

Caroline Game is a senior majoring in musical theatre.