Since August, the town of Ferguson, Missouri has held the nation’s attention. The recent grand jury decision not to indict a police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed a black teenager, Michael Brown, has left many Americans distressed and unsettled.
A grand jury also recently decided not to indict a New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who put a black man, Eric Garner, in a chokehold, which led to his death.
After these decisions were announced, protests, both peaceful and violent, as well as riots, have taken place across the nation. People feel angry at and disillusioned with our legal system. Speculation about corruption and racial bias in these events has run rampant.
Regardless of whether one believes Wilson or Pantaleo should have been found guilty of crimes, we at The Gatepost believe there should have been trials. Americans needed to see these cases go through the proper channels. We needed to hear verdicts. The public deserved to see the evidence and hear the arguments made for both sides of the case.
If, after their trials, Wilson or Pantaleo had been found innocent, some people would still be angry, but there wouldn’t be a sense that the cases was mishandled, that justice is not equal and that the loss of a black lives isn’t worth fair and full trials.
But the grand juries announced that there were no indictments. The decisions have been made.
This leaves many Americans wondering what they can do, and what these decisions mean for their lives moving forward. Although thousands of people are protesting across the country, many Americans still feel powerless.
President Barack Obama has announced funding to expand an initiative to equip police with body cameras so that the details of any particular case will be clearer.
But is that enough? Will it actually make a difference, considering there was a video of the incident in New York?
We as FSU students often believe we have little control over events that happen in places as far away as Missouri. What can we do that will make an impact?
One answer is that we can look at our own community and begin to take a stand for equal recognition and fair treatment of everyone here at FSU.
Recently, some students on our own campus have felt either ignored or marginalized after reporting an incident or crime.
Some students believe there has been racial tension on campus that hasn’t been acknowledged, as when racially offensive graffiti was reported in Towers, and concerned students believed that the administration’s response was inadequate.
Other students don’t know what their rights are when they interact with Campus Police. At a recent administrators’ forum, a student asked in what situations students have a right to record interviews with Campus Police. None of the administrators gave a clear answer, though Executive Vice President Dale Hamel promised a follow-up answer.
The incidents in Ferguson reflect the issues many Americans still face on a regular basis – issues that students on this campus have been struggling with this semester. Injustices happen all around us, every day – some more severe than others.
Where we as students really have the most power to make a difference is in our own community.
Those who make policies here at FSU are well within our reach – through an email, any student or community member is able to present a concern to the upper administration at our university, including President F. Javier Cevallos. The school has now hired a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to whom students will also be able to bring their concerns.
Through submitting to The Gatepost, any student is able to offer his or her voice to the community’s conversation. Through initiatives like the Tumblr blog called Framingham Speaks Up, students can express their opinions on issues such as discrimination.
But is that enough?
The answer is, not if students don’t exercise this power and use their voices.
If we want to see change in our community, we need to start working for it. We need to speak up. We need to demand that our voices be heard. And our administrators, as a first step in protecting student rights and well-being, need to keep a genuine and sincere line of communication open to address the most basic concerns. Administrators can’t just wait for these issues to go away, but it’s students’ job to make sure that they don’t.
Though America is composed of countless communities, they all face similar challenges. But our path to change, both local and national, starts right here at FSU.