November 14, 2015

Protest Cancelled Over Concerns From Black Students United

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A protest to show solidarity with the students of University of Missouri, Yale University and Ithaca College was canceled Thursday due to concerns voiced by Black Students United and other students in the Cornell community.

Across the nation, thousands of students took part in walkouts and rallies on college campuses Thursday in a show of solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri, Yale University and other colleges racially embroiled.

Protest organizer William Heisenberg ’15 said he decided to organize a protest to take place Friday to show solidarity after seeing demonstrations at other universities.

“I heard about the protests in Ithaca and Missouri, and then saw many students at Cornell showing solidarity,” Heisenberg said. “I now realize I should have first checked to see if anyone else was organizing a protest, but I hadn’t heard anything about one yet, so I thought maybe I can get this ball rolling.”

A couple hours after the Facebook event page for a “#ConcernedStudent2015 protest” was created, many students began to post on the page with concerns. Soon after, Black Students United posted on the event page, pointing out the lack of people of color in the planning and attendance of the event and requesting its cancellation.

“While we appreciate the solidarity and interest of our allies across campus, we would like to be able to address prejudice on this campus and campuses like it in our own way,” the post read. “In the future, please ask how you can support us before organizing on your own. With that in mind, we would appreciate the cancellation of this event.”

Heisenberg said he immediately decided to cancel the event after seeing the post.

“I didn’t check the event until a couple hours after I posted it, and when I did go back to it I saw that lots of people were criticizing it … a lot of people had commented, saying ‘this was inappropriate, he isn’t doing this the right way,’” Heisenberg said.

While commenters said they believed he was starting the event insincerely, Heisenberg said that his intentions of letting other voices be heard were sincere.

“I didn’t expect people to think that I was mocking them. I certainly didn’t want that to be the result,” Heisenberg said. “I was startled by people’s reactions, and I was hurt by the fact that I might have hurt other people … Other people should have their voices heard, and I don’t want to crowd them out or block them in any way.”

While Black Students United declined The Sun’s request for comment, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A) de Cornell posted a statement of solidarity with Black Students United.

“Racism destroys because it is backed by power, policy and action. As students of color, directly affected by racial discrimination, the power to dictate how change must come about is ours,” the statement reads. “The #ConcernedStudent2015 protest organized by Heisenberg disregards this notion, and instead perpetuates a white savior complex, placing the power to decide change in the hands of those not living our realities. In order for change to benefit the most oppressed students, our voices must be taken into account and must be at the forefront of these movements.”