William Barbee '22
Why is the first amendment the first amendment? Why were freedom of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assemblage the founding fathers’ first additions to the Constitution? Why are those freedoms so highly valued by those who have it and so longingly coveted by those who don’t? The answer is simple: without the ability to freely discuss ideas, freely share and publish those ideas, and freely protest those ideas, the entire fabric of a modern, enlightened society would vanish in the blink of an eye. And yet, even in our highly advanced civilization, our pinnacle of human achievement, there are still those among us who feel that the only way to preserve their idea of a ‘perfect world’ is to take away this fundamental right. These restrictive ideas are manifesting themselves in one of the great threats to freedom: cancel culture.
Let me be clear about what I am saying. I am not saying that people who have done terrible deeds and committed heinous crimes should be hailed as victims. People like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are not a product of ‘cancel culture;’ rather, they are long-overdue examples of corruption within a system that has allowed them to get away with their horrible deeds for decades. I will be the first to say that Roman Polanski should be put in jail for his acts of child rape. This has nothing to do with him being ‘cancelled’ or not. All three of these men are criminals who have been abusing their power for years and were rightly called out on it.
The problem that I have with cancel culture is in its intent. It was created by the ‘virtuous elite’ as a tool to silence people considered to be ‘morally inferior.’ It is the byproduct of a hyper-politically correct movement that aims to punish those who do not follow critics’ agendas of morality. If you can claim that you are on the side of morality while those with dissenting views are not, you can justify any and all means to stop their ‘immoral’ behavior. If you can claim your opponent is a Nazi, hates or oppresses minorities, and that their ideas are corrosive to the foundation of society, then you can convince people why your opposer should have their platform taken away from them, be forced to issue a public apology, and be scrutinized the rest of their life all because of a petty disagreement.
By altering the standards of acceptable speech ever so slightly, you are forcing people to choose between buckling under pressure to change and having their life’s work come crashing down and enduring eternal public scrutiny. Despite what the makers of these fluctuating rules tell you, you are not a hateful person. Almost no one is. And the few that remain viewed as hateful are ostracized in every way possible, being forced to lead hidden lives in the shadows of our society. Yet, every time you turn on the news or look at social media, you hear of another victim of cancel culture, another forced into silence. Hate speech is, legally, an undefined term. There is no way for somebody to objectively measure hate, especially in speech. When you add the fact that the line of what speech is hateful includes everything from Nazi propaganda to misgendering a transgender person, you reach a slippery slope that can lead people to be viewed criminally for simply expressing their viewpoint. This leads to an example from the UK in which a man was arrested for singing the song “Kung Fu Fighting” at a karaoke bar. The only crime this man committed was singing a song, yet he and his band will forever face the stigma of being racist and prejudiced.
There is no path to redemption for so many victims of cancel culture. No matter what they do, their image and reputation will always be haunted by one mistake, even if the mistake never happened in the first place. Jimmy Donaldson, better known by his username “MrBeast” is a YouTuber who specializes in philanthropy. Recently, there have been major attempts to cancel MrBeast for a video from 2016, in which he can be heard making an “attack helicopter joke” (essentially, a joke mocking gender identity). Whether you find the joke funny or not, there is no reason he should be slandered, as he should not be punished for speaking freely. A joke is, by definition, meant to poke fun at real world problems through a shaded, humorous perspective. Donaldson is not expressing a factual opinion; all he did was try, as he always does, to spread laughter and joy to people, and a small group of offended individuals should not be able to undermine the work of a genuine, good natured philanthropist.
As I sat down to write this article, a chilling revelation came upon me. This very piece, this expression of my beliefs on a culture I feel is so harmful to society, could have the reverse effects on me. I could be cancelled for writing a paper sharing my true feelings about this movement, this ideology. That terrifies me. It terrifies me to think that we have reached a point where expressing controversial viewpoints on divisive issues in society has become close to criminal, and that one small mistake can affect you forever. Cancel culture should serve as a wakeup call for all those who value freedom of speech and who refuse to let themselves be silenced by an angry swarm. We should all strive to be more open minded, allowing ourselves to think based not on emotion, but on analytical principles of truth, in order to understand the problems we face today.
Jorge Guajardo '21
The murder of black men and women at the hands of police and white supremacists—sometimes one and the same—have rightfully spurred a reckoning on the oppression of Black people in this country. Leaders have spoken out, activists have led the charge to enact lasting reform in this country, and many of us have had to ask ourselves the difficult questions of how we benefit from and contribute to white privilege and systemic racism. Social media has been a welcome home for us to share the grief and shock of these events. One new phenomenon I’m sure you all are familiar with is the advent of the Instagram infographic: fancy fonts laid over artistic backgrounds with the goal to educate the reader on issues of justice. But there are dangers to them.
To start, they lend themselves too easily to performative activism. Performative activism is real and problematic—some may post an infographic every day and then tell themselves that they have done enough. This is not so. Many of us may know others—celebrities or friends—who posted their black square on June 2nd and then remained silent in the months after. To paraphrase Angela Davis, being non-racist is not enough; we must be actively anti-racist. What does this mean? This is something I am attempting to educate myself on and thus cannot speak on with full confidence, but I can say this much: posting a daily infographic on your story to signify to others that you are “doing your part” is not being anti-racist. It is designating yourself as a “non-racist” and signalling an act of performative virtue. We must do more than repost infographics, though educate they may; we must fight for justice which they do not. The latter is our responsibility.
Infographics lead the reader to a false belief of expertise. Yes, I will admit, I have been educated on quite a few subjects from Instagram infographics. But, infographics only bring a rudimentary understanding of the subject being discussed, and it is then on us to continue researching the subject further. In this way, I believe that infographics can be positive—they can push us to do independent research on topics we were previously unaware of. I indeed have learned much about anti-racism and Black history that our U.S. History curriculum does not mention (something I may cover in a future article). Infographics pushing us to do more research in their final points are ultimately the most helpful.
However, many of these posts tend to be rather reductive. Boiling down complicated and tenuous issues into five slides on instagram is bound to leave some information off the table, and this could be key context that we miss if we fail to do further research. Some infographics, instead of providing key facts and viewpoints, simply associate buzzwords (which are becoming increasingly common on TikTok as well) like “classist” and “ableist” with things that are simply not so. The assertion that calling someone stupid is inherently ableist is simply ridiculous. Yes, I have seen that in an infographic. No, the account was not acting satirically. Competing in this sense to see who can be the “wokest” is a symptom of performative activism, and comes at the cost of meaningful discourse. Instagram infographics can guide us on the path to educate ourselves on justice, whether it be racial, economic, or political, but it is absolutely crucial that we approach every infographic with a healthy dose of critical thinking and skepticism. Just because an instagram post has a pastel background and tasteful graphic design does not mean it holds additional weight or credibility.
Infographics reinforce the echo chamber of social media. Hear me out: I have ended friendships, and I have lost the respect of many people due to their political beliefs. I believe that if your opinions fundamentally infringe on someone else’s human rights, then you are not someone who I want to spend time with. That being said, I think that social media’s echo chamber is exceptionally clear by looking at infographics. For starters, most infographics being shared are leftist in nature. I must clarify that I myself am left-leaning and inclined to agree with many of the claims I see on these infographics. However, the lack of a counter opinion on our social media feeds leads us to believe two things: that our opinions are the most correct, and that our opinions are the most popular. It is important to be exposed to disagreement (again recognizing that some opinions are truly deplorable and deserve no place in public discourse) so that we cannot only be challenged in our own opinions, but also more informed about our communities.
A quick anecdote follows: I have seen posts on a popular infographic account calling GPAs racist. Now indeed, GPAs may very well be racist as this infographic states. I shall not—and nobody should—claim to know the definite truth about the possible racism of GPAs after only reading an infographic on instagram arguing this. A quick glance at the comments, however, left me disappointed but not surprised. Disagreeing voices eager to participate in good-faith discourse—the unicorn of social media—were being shut down, and any disagreements were labeled foolish and the disagreers ignorant. Now, granted, I did not expect a proper philosopher’s forum in the comments of an instagram post, but therein lies the problem. When we retire ourselves to our opinion’s safe haven (I am hesitant to overuse the word “echo-chamber” as too often I hear it as a bad-faith right wing insult) on social media, we lose the forums where we can have meaningful and productive conversations on contentious issues (remembering once again that some issues are irrefutable, namely the fundamental right to life of others).
Instagram infographics are a good introduction to the reckoning and research that we (especially as members of a predominantly white institution) need to conduct in order to be properly anti-racist. However, we must treat them as what they are, a good introduction, and we need to take it upon ourselves to do our own independent research to become better anti-racists and better citizens of this country.
I welcome all voices—especially those in disagreement—to leave their thoughts below.
This article has been removed from The Exchanged for not meeting our editorial standards.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.
Jacob Fife '23
Last school year, the diversity committee at St. Albans announced that the theme for the diversity forum would be “Allyship.” When I first heard this announcement, I was very excited because it meant that St. Albans could help students become better allies to their peers, teaching about the struggles, large and small, that minority students face on a daily basis. Being queer myself, some things that I have heard people say, whether directly to me or not, has allowed me understand why St. Albans has such a low percentage of LGBTQ+ students are open about who they are. I was also very excited for the diversity forum last year because St. Albans was going to finally address the issues that the school had never discussed to any great extent in the past.
Even though a good part of the diversity forum was scrapped in the 2019-2020 school year due to remote learning, the diversity committee still was able to introduce affinity groups to St. Albans near the end of the school year. According to Wikipedia, an affinity group is “a group formed around a shared interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong.” Basically, affinity groups allow students who are similar, whether in sexuality, gender, race, or religion, to talk with each other about their experiences at school and discuss what the student body, teachers, and administration can do to become a more inclusive community. When affinity groups were first announced, students and faculty had a meeting to discuss what they would be like and address any concerns the students might have had. There was some backlash to the idea with some students arguing that affinity groups would divide St. Albans into cliques. This appeared to be the central issue surrounding affinity groups. Would affinity groups create cliques, and therefore destroy the St. Albans brotherhood on which we pride ourselves so much?
Since some students feel intimidated or scared to show their identities to their classmates, these students often feel disconnected from the St. Albans brotherhood. Since there is a lack of actual cliques at St. Albans, many of these students experience difficulty in finding a community where they can be seen and heard. Thanks to affinity groups, these students can find their voice and present difficulties that are special to them. Strong communities form from these affinity groups because the members can relate with each other in ways that the greater St. Albans community would never be able to do. As more students become comfortable in expressing themselves in affinity groups, these students will be more comfortable expressing themselves to their classmates. Therefore, affinity groups actually strengthen the St. Albans community rather than weaken it.
I have high hopes for the future of diversity and inclusion at St. Albans, both in the academic field and in the community. In fact, St. Albans plans to incorporate more Black authors into the English programs and teach more African American history. In addition, many students have put their pronouns in their social media bios as well as their Zoom names, which helps transgender and non-binary students feel more comfortable expressing their gender identity.
While St. Albans has made and plans to make advancements in diversity, the school still has a long way to go. Many steps can be taken to reach this goal, and with the introduction of affinity groups, and hopefully student unions in the future, St. Albans can make everyone feel welcome, safe, and part of the greater community.
Norah Kanukolanu ‘23 and Tassneem Selman’23
I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard about Blackout Tuesday and seen the myriad of pictures that celebrities and teenagers posted with #BlackLivesMatter in their captions. This is not activism nor allyship, this is capitalizing off a movement fighting for people’s lives. Posting an Instagram infographic is the bare minimum. Instead, posters should know what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for and why.
This is a systemic and systematic issue that won’t stop after a few posts. White students on the Close need to take the time to understand what their black and brown classmates go through everyday. Their work is not done after posting a picture of themselves at a protest or posting a black square.
Although the Blackout Tuesday may have been well intentioned, the trend was incredibly harmful to the movement itself. The seemingly endless stream of black squares led to the obstruction of the #blm hashtag, which is a vital resource for BLM activists, as important and critical information regarding safety precautions for protests were virtually erased. The fact is, posting a black square was ineffective and dangerous. Black squares clogging up everyone’s feed did not advocate for police reform or justice. Instead, the black squares became the newest symbol of performative activism. Additionally, most people’s inspiration to post a black square did not stem from a want to help; but, instead because they saw all their friends doing it and participated in it as a trend.
Then there comes the issue of counter-protesting, which is the most detrimental to the movement. Protests such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter set America back. All Lives Matter is a prime example of white fragility. What All Lives Matter supporters seem to miss is an implied “too” at the end of Black Lives Matter. The difference between these two movements is the systemic racism within justice departments which marginalizes and hurts black communities. Blue Lives Matter folks seem to forget that a police officer can take off his uniform; but, a person of color cannot take off their skin.
People who only post black squares on their feeds need to take their activism further. Instead, people should donate to Black organizations, shop at Black-owned businesses, stand up when racism rears its ugly head, and most importantly educate themselves on Black issues and injustices in this country. It is not the responsibility of the Close’s black and brown students to educate their peers; instead, understand and empathize with the struggle they face daily. Get your information from more than one source and use it. And don’t hesitate to bring these difficult conversations to your family and friends. Someone who refuses to implement newfound education on racism in real-life environments is not an ally.
Black lives matter is not a trend. The Black struggle in America does not end once the momentum dies down. The Black struggle is an everyday battle that we must continue talking about or else change will never come.
Louisa Kean '22
Allyship shouldn’t be explicitly requested at NCS from white students. But it must be; that’s the problem. While talking about race can be uncomfortable, we make progress toward greater understanding when we lean into discomfort.
As a white person, I will never understand the experience of people of color. It is a privilege that I will never face prejudice because of my skin tone. Because of this, I have an obligation to use my voice to open conversations in white spaces about racism on and off the Close. As we start to have these conversations, the most productive thing that I, or any white ally, can do is work on being actively anti-racist.
While attending NCS, I have noticed many things that have not sat right with me either because of their racist undertones or blatant racist. I have heard and I am guilty of having used African American Vernacular English (AAVE). AAVE is usually used by many white people for comedic effect or for entertainment purposes. When AAVE is used, white people may laugh at the comments without understanding the origins of the words. I was unaware of what AAVE was before this summer, and I originally thought it was merely “internet slang.” Words like “sis”, “bae”, “slay”, and many others have been normalized in NCS girls’ vocabulary. Many students do not realize that these words originated within the Black community. In Contrast, when Black people use AAVE, they can be considered inarticulate. This teaches Black people, particularly Black students, to suppress the use of their language. This is one of the many examples of why NCS needs WARAC.
Another trend which is intensely prevalent on the Close is the overuse of fake tan. Many NCS girls get spray tans or use self-tanner before school dances. At NCS, the negative attitude toward pale skin is directly linked to the fetishization of dark skin, and it does not sit right with me. It should not sit right with anyone. A white girl gets a spray tan, and the color usually fades in about two weeks. White (or simply fair-toned) girls can reap the aesthetic benefits of appearing as a POC, but they still have the privilege of being Caucasian. However, POC and particularly Black girls are forced to endure everything that comes with being a minority every single day. Their skin color does not fade, for it cannot be washed off or sprayed on. This is yet another topic I aim to delve into in WARAC this year, and I hope to hear others’ perspectives.
Because white people cannot experience racism, many of us do not recognize the microaggressions that their friends of color face daily. Once you understand and finally see that racism is ever-present and embedded within our society, efforts to cultivate change may seem pointless. As a predominantly white institution (PWI), NCS needs a White Anti-Racist Allyship Club (WARAC) to promote active allyship. This club is a small step towards educating students on awareness and active advocacy for POC. Although the club is targeted to white students, WARAC welcomes everyone. This isn’t profound, and no white ally should be praised for self-education or advocacy. The bar should not be set so low.
Students who attend club meetings should be prepared to ask questions, admit mistakes, and learn how to do better. We, as a community, need to reflect on ourselves, communicate more, and stand up for others when we encounter racism in our day to day lives; these skills have not necessarily been our strong suits in the past. I hope that students (primarily at NCS, with hopes to expand to STA) will come to and benefit from meetings with various affinity groups, reading antiracist books and articles, hearing a multitude of speakers, and more in the near future.
Anisha Phillips (February 3rd, 2020) Using Black Vernacular English (BVE) as a Non-Black Person Isn’t “Woke” if You Don't Understand the History
Teddy Palmore '23
In the midst of a global pandemic, thousands of protesters marched towards the Capitol. Only nine days earlier, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis by a police officer. Two months prior, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police in her home. And three months before, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by a former police officer and his son on a morning jog. At the time, the perpetrators of the homicides of Floyd and Taylor remained free and employed. Resounding chants of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE” echoed off the buildings of downtown DC, demanding immediate systemic reform to the institutions that have oppressed minorities since our nation’s inception. I marched, chanted, and shouted, the whole time in awe of the power that radiated from the crowd. The U.S. was, by then, the global epicenter of the novel coronavirus. Yet, this was but one of many protests that continue to take place to this day.
The presence of the pandemic begs the question: how is gathering thousands of people in the streets safe even during a pandemic? First of all, mask compliance at protests has been remarkably high. Second, physical distancing is still possible even when in large crowds. On top of this, the vast majority of protests have been taking place outdoors, which greatly reduces the risk of transmitting COVID-19. In fact, there is little evidence that any major outbreaks of the virus were associated with these protests. Of course, even with all of these factors, there is still a chance of COVID infection, but many protestors understandably do not care. Fighting for equality has always had its risks.
The protests were largely peaceful, although some devolved into riots. At first, many people, myself included, were uncomfortable with the chaos, especially as shops and restaurants in D.C. were affected. Many saw the burned buildings in Minneapolis and had trouble understanding why such a thing would happen. As I thought about why the protests were happening, I understood better why the riots were happening. This was not needless violence, but the culmination of decades of appeals falling on deaf ears. I thought of Martin Luther King’s words: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” These riots were products of fury. I began to gain some understanding of the massive societal overhaul necessary to end this systematic racial oppression and of the justified anger so many feel about this oppression.
Since before the birth of our nation, rioting and protesting have been glorified. In the years leading up to 1776, there were riots aplenty in British America. There were countless rebellions of enslaved people in the 1800s. Women’s rights activists held numerous protests from 1776 onward. During the civil rights movement, of course, there were hundreds of riots and thousands of protests, as millions fought for equality and justice for black people. All of these riots were voices of unheard people. After each of these periods of unrest, change happened. The US declared independence, enslaved people were freed, women were granted suffrage, and Black people were (supposedly) finally given equality.
Protesting during a global pandemic is not only understandable, but acceptable. The success of protesting, and even rioting, throughout history provide more than enough reason to march, even during a pandemic. In the past, much more so than today, protestors’ lives were in danger. Enslaved people would surely be whipped, mutilated, and killed if caught building a rebellion. During the Civil Rights Movement, protestors were thrown into jail, and brutally beaten while prominent figures in the protests were assassinated or had their homes bombed. Protesting has never been risk-free, and this remains true today. Should legislators pass the reforms necessary to fix the structure of American society, the presence of racial equality in the U.S. will have been well worth the risk.
Helen Wickett '22
Activism has no age. The constitution applies to every US citizen, specifically the first amendment. While there is no age too young to exercise your right to petition, certain things can make it difficult for young people to get involved. . For students, going to protests can be difficult when they do not have the proper resources and abilities. This includes transportation and the ability to leave school during the school day. While attending school is important, there is no better way for minors to become educated on matters of social justice than to protest. Making change in our communities and the world is not solely a job for adults. We must take advantage of living in a country where speaking your mind and fighting for what you believe to be just is encouraged. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that older generations allow us the opportunity to make change.
Student activism is not a new concept. In a world full of injustice, inequality, and political unrest, students have modeled what it means to be active in our communities for decades. As Gen Z, we have no problem speaking up for ourselves and often do not see our age as something that hinders us from creating change on micro and macro levels. At the age of 18, Malala Yousafzai won a nobel peace prize for her work petitioning for the right of all children to have an education. At the age of 16, Greta Thunberg organized the largest climate demonstration in history with 4 million people in 161 countries protesting beside her. When the NCS Black Student Union hosted a sit-in outside of the Cathedral in June, hundreds of students from schools around the DMV rallied in support. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, joined together to found the March for Our Lives movement, after the tragic shooting which took place at their school. These trailblazers, and many more youth just like them, have proven that everyone should recognize Gen Z as the face of modern activism.
When I was in the eighth grade, I walked out of school with four of my peers and attended the “March for Our Lives” protest in front of the capitol. I saw hundreds of students aged thirteen to eighteen sitting together, reading names of school-shooting victims, demanding gun control, and being apart of tangible change opened my eyes to how passionately our generation feels about social justice. At the protest, I was particularly captivated by signs which read messages such as “why must this be our fate; we want to graduate” and “the only guns we need are Michael B Jordan’s”. As activists, we care about one another’s futures in our own special way. Although students who leave school to protest risk getting in trouble with administration, I cannot stress how important it is for our generation to exercise our 1st amendment rights as best we can. As young people who are unable to vote, protesting is the next best thing. As the future policy makers of America, our generation attending protests as early as middle school is vital to continuing the trend of young people making changes which adults deem impossible.
No matter your age, I implore you to protest for what you believe in. It is your fundamental right to petition. Take advantage of it.
The Atlantic Monthly Group (2019) Getting Gen Z Primed to Save the World
Ayling Woodward (January 3rd, 2020) Greta Thunberg turns 17 today. Here's how she started a global climate movement in just 18 months.
Arrie Soloman '21 and Nia Brown '21
A summer full of mourning, celebration, hard-work, determination, and Black-sisterhood began on May 25th, 2020. At the end of the school year, our nation was struck with tragedy once again, but to Black Americans, this tragedy was one of many more. Watching another unarmed Black man become a martyr of Black Death was emotionally draining enough, and for the Black students of the country, including on the Close, we still had to do our homework, get a “good night’s rest,” and wake up ready to learn the next day. After a Cathedral service did not supply the comfort and support Black students were expecting, our former BSU president, Anaya Rodgers ’20, emailed our head of school, Ms. Bosland, to air the disappointment of the Black students at NCS. The NCS administration responded to our concerns exactly how an administration should; they apologized for causing us sorrow, vowed to do better, and this next step most administrations forget, they asked to meet with us to further discuss ways in which the school can improve. The then co-Presidents of the BSU, Anaya Rodgers and Nia Brown, decided to go a step further and bring our community together on June 5th at a sit-in at the National Cathedral, with the common goal to support and uplift Black students’ voices (and most importantly, their lives). Despite the school’s inability to be involved in the sit-in, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event went off without a hitch, achieving what it sought to do. Rodgers and Brown even made it to the Washington Post in direct quotes.
However, over the summer the BSU was not finished with its work as they were, and still are, determined to bring change to the school. As promised, the Administration hosted the first “listening session” of many shortly after, with the BSU and its sponsors, Ms. Bosland, DBA, and Rev Cav. The administration provided a safe space for us to talk. Members of BSU raised many points about DEI in our curriculum, in our schedules, in our community and how we protect it. This summer the school hired a new head of diversity and inclusion Ms. McIntyre. She came to NCS at an inopportune time when our institution is reckoning with the concept of change. Both our students and our administration are adjusting to this new world we live in. This amount of uncertainty would intimidate anyone, but not Ms. Mac. She spent a good portion of her summer advocating for NCS’ Black students or supporting us in advocating for ourselves.
One of the many meetings BSU had over the summer included a meeting with the Humanities Departments. In the meeting we discussed the negative implications of which voices were being raised through literature in the English department, and what perception of Black people we were giving white students. Specifically, we discussed the coveted AmLit class that is required for Juniors. The three books most read: The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, and The Great Gatsby, are all books written by white people, which doesn’t seem like a problem until you explore the historical context of the literature. History is in the eyes of the beholder, and history is also more accurate when told by the people that are affected by the storytellers. In the social sciences, the BSU and the department discussed the harmful narrative they were teaching about Africa, and how that affected the way a lot of white people see Black people in general. Specifically, the optional Africa Unit in Geography that only touches on two things: sugar daddies and the HIV/AIDS crisis. Pause reading this for a moment and think of the last time you heard something positive and optimistic about Africa, you had to think for a long time, didn’t you? That’s because most schools don’t teach the beauty of the African continent, and instead teach the western imperialist perspective: that Africa is full of people that don’t know how to run a civilization and therefore desperately need help. Instead, we should be taught more about Black joy, Black love, and Black beauty.
The BSU also met with the PECF police, expressing how being Black students on campus affects their interactions with and feelings towards the campus force. Head Police Andy Solberg listened with open ears and worked with the BSU to create initiatives to better student relationships and agreed to receiving DEI training from Ms. Mac. Towards the end of summer, and before Opening Cathedral, senior BSU members with the chaplains to issue another community space would not go by without the recognition of the hardships and mourning Black students were consistently subjected to throughout the summer.
Transitioning into the academic year, BSU seniors agreed that change must continue to happen, and progress needs to be protected, as well as leaving a legacy for future Black NCS Girls. Black Students Demanding Change (BDSC) will accomplish this goal. BSDC’s main goal is to act as a liaison between Black students and their administrations. These listening sessions and conversations cannot end when 2021 graduates. Black girls at NCS need to feel perpetually empowered and supported by this community.
Zach Leiter '21
In August of 2017, almost a thousand far-right protesters descended on Charlottesville, North Carolina waving Swastikas and Confederate flags. In the chaos, amid the chants of “Seig Heil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” the neo-Nazis murdered a woman and injured more than twenty others. Afterwards, the President of the United States of America called these neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
One year later, a gunman in tactical gear opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue outside Pittsburgh, slaughtering eleven worshippers. His posts on social media said Jewish nonprofits were bringing “hostile invaders to dwell among us.” That same month, a Trump supporter was arrested for mailing a pipe bomb to Jewish billionaire George Soros.
In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League marked the highest level of antisemitic incidents since tracking began in 1979.
As hatred rises, and our society grows increasingly divided, conspiracy theorists are seizing on Americans’ fear. Once a fringe internet phenomenon, QAnon, the cult that alleges the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, has become mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are now supporters. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a Republican congressional primary in Georgia and is almost certain to join the United States House in 2021. Greene claims George Soros and the Rothschilds—a wealthy Jewish family—collaborated with the Nazis. Greene, Trump said, is a “real winner,” and a “future star.”
More than a hundred years ago, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion similarly spun lies to inspire hate: A secret cabal runs the world. They kidnap children and drink their blood. They are homosexuals and pedophiles and government officials and financiers. They are the downfall of the white race (whatever that is).
Mein Kampf, at first, seemed only a raving lunatic’s diary.
Then, the Nazis sent more than six million Jews to their deaths, irreparably scarring the lives of my grandmother and countless others. My family, and countless other Jewish families, were forever shattered.
But Adolf Hitler was not a singular villain. The Nazi party was not alone in their evil. Their tyranny grew out of an eerily familiar distemper in society. Across Europe, millions lost work during the Great Depression; Fascists and Communists fought in Italy, and Spain, and Germany. By the outbreak of World War Two, Europe had fallen under an Iron Curtain from which it would not fully emerge for half a century.
Now, we find our own world in a similar situation. Millions are out of work. Hundreds of thousands lie dead. Political division runs rampant. Armed militias murder protestors in the streets of American cities, and our president defends the murderers. In Portland, he sends in unmarked troops to suppress constitutional rights.
It is, I believe, a stretch to call Trump today’s “Hitler.” It is not, however, unfair to worry what he might become. And it is, unfortunately, not a stretch to call QAnon supporters Nazis.
I have seen the Tree of Life Synagogue, in a quiet neighbourhood in the suburbs of a major American city. Outside, there’s now a makeshift art exhibit. A week after the shooting, I walked into my own synagogue past armed guards.
The Alliance Against Genocide called QAnon an early warning sign of deadly genocidal violence. President Trump called them “lovers of our country.” If this is the nation that our president wants us to be, if this is the nation we are becoming, it is not a nation I want to live in. It is not a nation where I, as a Jew, feel safe.