Cornellians look over the Arts Quad from Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, during a protest against racism nationally and locally.

Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornellians look over the Arts Quad from Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, during a protest against racism nationally and locally.

September 27, 2017

Hundreds ‘Take a Knee’ to Support Athletes and Cornell Students Fighting Racism

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Hundreds of professors, staff, students and locals took to the Arts Quad on Wednesday to kneel in solidarity with professional athletes and Cornell students who have been protesting brutality against black Americans around the country and in Ithaca.

The protest, organized by the Cornell Coalition for Inclusive Democracy, was in part a response to the recent assault of a black student in Collegetown, who said he was called the N-word multiple times and punched in the face by a group of four or five white men. Ithaca Police arrested a white student, John Greenwood ’20, whose lawyer denies he engaged in any physical altercation, and a grand jury may charge him with a hate crime in the next two weeks.

The rally, attended by more than 300, was also meant to support professional athletes like former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who have kneeled during the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality against black people. President Donald Trump this weekend entered into the debate regarding the protest, saying that the NFL should fire or suspend players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

Prof. Russell Rickford, history, one of the original members of the coalition, said at the protest that symbols, such as kneeling during the national anthem, “can become genuine resistance.”

“A band of thugs, you know those thugs, battered a black student in Collegetown while hurling racial epithets,” he said. “Later, they described another person as a ‘sand-nigger.’ How well we have learned the lessons of empire. The truth is, Cornell is a bastion of white supremacy.”

“Our society is steeped in white supremacy,” he said. “Why should we expect Cornell, an enterprise built on stolen land, to be any different?”

Prof. Russell Rickford, history, spoke to hundreds on the Arts Quad who gathered to protest racism nationally and locally.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Prof. Russell Rickford, history, spoke to hundreds on the Arts Quad who gathered to protest racism nationally and locally.

Prof. Tracy McNulty, French and comparative literature, is a member of CCID and organized the rally. She said that it was time for faculty members to “participate in this fight” and actively push for Cornell to enact Black Students United’s 12 demands.

“We have to be willing to learn and take a responsibility for the role we play in a campus environment where students of color do not feel valued or even welcome,” she said of faculty. “BSU has thrown down a gauntlet, and we need to pick it up.”

Provost Michael Kotlikoff attended the protest — although he appeared to leave before rally-goers took a knee around 1 p.m. — and a University photographer snapped pictures of the scene.

“The rhetoric of equity and inclusion will not redeem us and kneeling certainly will not redeem us,” Rickford said. “Those boys in Collegetown did not bash that kid because they failed to understand his culture. They did so because they believed they could get away with it.”

Rickford led the crowd in chants of “I believe that we will win” and “Free Palestine.”

The event was a moment, professors said, where they could show that they support students who for years have been on the forefront of efforts to make Cornell a so-called sanctuary campus, to implement the demands of black students and more. The CCID formed in the week after the election of Trump in November.

Prof. Ella Maria Diaz, English and Latina/o studies, an original member of CCID, said it was “fantastic” to see “such a broad crowd” at Wednesday’s rally, adding that she hoped the professors who attended the “Take a Knee” event continue to support and advocate with student groups.

“I think the question is, will I see all these folks at the next student rally for undocumented students’ rights or support?” Diaz said in an interview following the rally. “Will I see them at the next occupation?”

Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and Ithacans converge on the Arts Quad to "take a knee" against racism on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and Ithacans converge on the Arts Quad to “take a knee” against racism on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

“People have been sounding the alarms for quite some time and it’s up to others now [to decide] if they’re going to hear them,” Diaz said.

Hundreds of rally-goers took a knee during a moment of silence, while others remained standing with their fists raised in the air.

Prof. Aziz Rana, law, toward the end of the protest, said taking a knee is meaningless “unless it comes with a commitment that everyone here now is accountable for what it means to impose justice on our community.”

“If we don’t start with an institution like Cornell, what will happen?” he asked.

  • Thomas Sowell

    I find it ammusing that the Sun states that systematic racist violence against blacks in the U.S. exists without offering a scintilla of evidence to support such a preposterous claim.

    • MajorBidamon

      Is this Dr. Thomas Sowell from the Hoover Institute? If yes — thank you Sir for being a voice of reason in the desert of intellectual pablum that is Cornell. As a person of color, a veteran and a CU grad — I can’t say I’m surprised by Cornell’s descent into madness. They started the trend in the 60s, so why stop?

      • Jonathan Pomboza

        Bigots of a feather stick together

        • MajorBidamon

          I know, right? These race baiting BLM, Latino/a, and communist radicals are like peas in a pod. You nailed it Jonathan!

          • Jonathan Pomboza

            This has got to be the most ridiculous comment ever. You seem to be blind to the issues and only seem to think that these groups you named are the problem.

          • MajorBidamon

            no — the most ridiculous comment is YOU calling Thomas Sowell a bigot. Yes — these children are a huge part of the problem — privileged ivy leaguers who feel oppressed because of their skin pignmentation, that is the problem. I’ve been away from Cornell for two decades — one thing I’ve learned without a doubt … is that the world is a cruel place — these poor children are in for a rude awakening. They should be studying AI, machine learning, computer science — what a waste. They’ll have plenty of time to think about how they’re oppressed when they’re working in an Amazon warehouse or a Starbucks … until the robots take over. smh.

        • Kurka LeReason

          Thomas Sowell is a well known black economist…

          • Jonathan Pomboza

            Being a black economist doesn’t make you any less of a bigot if your ideas are used by bigots.

    • Jonathan Pomboza

      an adorable ignorant fool and racist. You seem like the type that can have racism staring you in the face and you’ll just pretend to be blind

      • Ezra Tank

        Oh look the ONLY tool the left has in their toolbox is out. If they disagree with your opinion YOU’RE A RACIST.

        So tired of this intellectually empty argument.

        • Map4Territory

          I hate the left’s motte and bailey use of ‘racism’ as much as the next, but since this is a situation that is explicitly about race and racism the criticism is more appropriate.

          The article was simply reporting the beliefs and actions of the protesters. It never put forward the idea that systemic racism is rampant as its own idea. You are criticizing a medium for pushing an argument it never made. Makes it seem like you are looking for any reason to write the event off rather than actually engage with the issues.

          And it’s a ridicoulous expectation that a speaker addressing a crowd of like minded people should specifically be addressing the objections of someone reading about their protest on a website that wasn’t the intended audience anyway.

          Since I’m sure you’ll just double down on your initial claim, what evidence does a group of people showing solidarity with athletes who are being attacked for protesting police brutality need to provide in order to justify its existence? The athletes are under attack and surely defending their right to protest shouldn’t require much other evidence?

        • Jonathan Pomboza

          conservative snowflakes are everywhere it seems.

      • John Blutarsky

        Institutional racism clearly and certainly does not exist in America today! Are minorities not admitted to institutions of higher learning? Are minorities not allowed to run for elected positions? Are minorities not allowed to serve in the military? Are minorities not allowed to play in professional sports? Are minorities not allowed to own business’? Are there ANY laws in this Country that legally discriminate in any way? The answer to all these questions is NO! Were these issues in the past, yes – but NOT today. Are there racial issues in America today, of course, but they clearly and certainly do NOT rise the level of institutional racism.

        Why not be truthful about your real motivations? Anger about past injustices. Shame about past injustices. Hatred of your Country and its institutions because of these injustices . Jealousy of others who have more than you. Self- hatred for not being able to achieve more than you are able. A desire to teach a lesson to and make non-minorities pay for what they have done – revenge.

        • MajorBidamon

          John … you nailed it. These communist radicals have taken the bait and are publicly confessing their hatred of this great country. Trump (for all his shortcomings) truly is the master troll. He put the bait out and like mindless drones, the radicals are eating out of this hand. Truly amazing!

        • Ezra Tank

          Well said John. If you read the “demands” that the BSU presented to Cornell’s current President it reads like a definition of reverse racism. They want special this and special that, positions created that only people of color should hold. Private property (the Psi Upsilon house) be given to them to create a space for African Diaspora. Their list goes on and on about hiring a physician that is a person of color. Seriously? How about you follow Martin Luther’s dream and hire the best PERSON to fill that position. The victim hood mentality of these students, all born LONG after any of institutional racism existed, is pathetic.

          Do these students realize that a lot of cultures have been enslaved over the years (one only need to look at the Chinese who built most of the western railroads) but NONE of them are begging for handouts and special treatment in 2017.

          This girl gets it:

        • Jay Wind

          John, the problem is that BSU is operating from a nation-wide playbook on a local playing field. Cornell is unique. It was founded by an abolitionist after the civil war in a liberal, Northern state. There is no secret to be revealed of slave labor building campus. The only thing the BSU has is that Cornell and Ithaca was built on land taken from the Indians. Hence, the lame demand to change the name of “Cornell Plantations” to “Cornell Bontanic Gardens.” On its founding, Cornell was the antithesis of “white privilege,” and provided upward mobility and financial success to working-class students at a time when Harvard and Yale did the opposite. Cornell was never segregated, and did valuable outreach and support to family farmers since its founding. It has made valuable contributions to the quality of life in the third world and to the understanding of various cultures. How do you lay a credible “guilt trip” on an institution like that?

        • Jonathan Pomboza

          Go do some research. Racism is quite alive and well

    • Ash

      How dare the Sun report on the solar system without presenting a scintilla of evidence to support the preposterous claim that the earth is round.

    • newyork1974

      You want “evidence to support such a preposterous claim”? I know a New York police officer who explains his and his fellow police officers’ arrest policy as follows: “If this guy didn’t do this, somebody who looks a lot like him did.” (In other words, same skin color.) “And if he didn’t do this crime, he committed some other crime. Get ’em off the street.”

      This is the thinking of a lynch mob: maybe this guy didn’t do whatever we’re hanging him for, but he probably did something, and anyway, same skin color.

      This is obviously horrible when it’s a lynch mob. But with the NYPD officer, we’re dealing with “law enforcement.”

      This NYPD officer’s attitude is unfortunately pretty standard. I’ll give you more examples if you like.

  • Anna Snow

    The issue of Palestine did not belong in yesterday’s protest. Prof. Rickford’s co-opting of the rally to rant against Israel and manipulate the crowd into chanting an anti-Israel slogan created an unsafe space for Jewish students and faculty. The conflating of a complex Middle East conflict with historic racism in America demonstrates precisely the ignorance and binary thinking that the speakers yesterday were presumably against. I was appalled that a historian should call Israel apartheid — does he not know what apartheid is? In South Africa Blacks could not vote, marry whites, get decent jobs, eat in restaurants…Israeli Arabs have full civil rights; they serve as Supreme Court judges, have seats in Parliament, run hospitals and universities, share beaches and restaurants and marry whomever they want. It seems that Cornell — or at least Rickford and those who cheered for him yesterday — are more interested in spreading propaganda than in combating American racism, and they are certainly not interested in anything other than denying Jews the right to self-determination and destroying Israel, which is what the chant “free Palestine” is all about.

    • newyork1974

      I’m a Jew, and I’m sorry, most of what you wrote is completely baseless. You talk about “conflating.” How about conflating criticism of the policies of the extreme rightwing Netanyahu government with “creating an unsafe space for Jewish students and faculty”? The “apartheid” criticism, made by former President Carter and others, concerns the occupied territories, not Israel itself, as I’m sure you know. In the occupied territories, apartheid is an entirely accurate description. In Israel proper, the issue is discrimination, economic disinvestment in Arab towns, and failure to maintain basic infrastructure like sewage systems in those communities, but not apartheid.

      But when Israeli soldiers wear t-shirts depicting a pregnant Palestinian woman with a rifle scope cross-hairs across her stomach and the words above (in Hebrew) and below (in English) “One shot, two kills,” I don’t know what you call that. When questioned about it, their officers replied that it was “free speech.” Meanwhile, when Israeli soldiers, in keeping with the founding principles of Israel, object to appalling policies they are ordered to carry out, their officers ridicule them in front of their fellow soldiers and look for pretexts to punish them.

      (The t-shirt story was reported in one of the liberal Jewish weeklies in New York. Reporting it did not “create an unsafe space” for Jews.)

    • George Glass

      So when Palestinians become a majority in Israel, are you alright with Israel ceasing to be a Jewish state? i mean, if it’s a democracy, and the majority of people want an Islamic state, are you cool with Israel losing its Jewish identity?

      • newyork1974

        Uh, the population of Israel is 80% Jewish, 20% Arab. But as many Jews have been pointing out for years, Israel cannot remain a Jewish state and a democracy if it holds onto the West Bank and continues to seize land from Palestinians. As with South Africa, that is where the apartheid structure comes from, the one that now exists in the occupied West Bank. That’s also where the “one shot, two kills” t-shirt about killing pregnant Palestinian women comes from.

  • Ezra Tank

    LOL. Makes you rethink sending your children to this liberal indoctrination camp. And I’m willing to bet had President Trump said he supports Kaepernick they would be standing to protest Kaepernick because the “tolerant” left HATES our President.

    Again where were these Professors when the NFL player Isaiah Crowell posted this picture to his Instagram account?

  • John Plugger Mellencamp

    This is really big. After all, if there’s one thing Cornell professors are known for, it’s their patriotism and support for the military and law enforcement.

  • Guy

    anyone care about the thousand of black people killed in the inner cities by black male thugs? Baltimore, Chicago, Charlotte are all setting records? Or just against cops trying to stop the slaughter?

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  • Marco Ramirez

    Cornell Faculty and Students: You have become amusing caricatures of political and cultural Marxism run amuck on college campuses. Thank you for the two minutes of laughter today.