SIUE Athletics came together this weekend to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement by organizing a march on campus.
The march was inspired by the recent attention brought to police brutality, and fueled further by the recent verdict in the Breonna Taylor case. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron stated one officer, Detective Brett Hankinson, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into the walls of neighboring apartments, leading to outrage from those hoping for charges related to Taylor’s death.
Junior women’s basketball guard Mikia Keith, of Indianapolis, organized the
event with the help of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The event began with a showcasing of Black student organizations on campus. Senior women’s soccer goalkeeper Jensen Schoch, of Orlando, Florida, is president of SAAC. Schoch said she and Keith wanted to make sure Black student organizations felt as welcome on campus as everyone else.
“I feel that a lot of the time Black organizations and Black individuals aren’t recognized as much and simply because of bias and stuff like that, so I think part of [Mikia’s] goal in all of this was, while yes, we are promoting Black Lives Matter, we’re also recognizing our community,” Schoch said. “Especially our Black student organizations on campus, because they deserve credit for all the good that they’re doing and they deserve to feel welcome just as much as any other organization.”
Before marching, student athletes shared their thoughts on the Taylor case as
well as their own experiences with racism. Keith said Black Lives Matter is a human rights issue, not a political one.
“Yes, I’m a Black athlete, but first, I’m a Black person and have to deal with the social and racial injustice we face in our day-to-day life. Black Lives Matter is not political; it is a basic human right,” Keith said. “Saying that Black lives matter does not mean that white or any other racial group doesn’t matter, it means that all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”
Senior women’s basketball guard Zaria Whitlock, of St. Paul, Minnesota,
said in order for things to change, those with privilege need to stand with the Black community.
“We’re socialized to fear things we don’t understand and I think people are
so afraid to say ‘Black lives matter’ because we’ve never lived in a world where they do,” Whitlock said. “We cannot expect to see change and begin to dismantle systems and institutions built upon hatred unless those with privilege are willing to stand with us and be just as outraged as those of
us who are subjected to these injustices.”
Whitlock said silence is complicity in the face of racial injustice. “I want to say to every white person who is here today, especially those who self-proclaim as allies ... if you are spectating in silence, it’s a form of betrayal and it’s just as hurtful as those who openly and without question spread bigotry and hate in this country,” Whitlock said. “Silence does not demonstrate neutrality, it demonstrates your complicity with the status quo. It’s not acceptable to sit and watch while human beings are literally hunted in broad daylight by the exact systems and institutions that are supposed to protect us by law.”
Another way SAAC is trying to support the Black community is by selling shirts online and at the march, with proceeds going to an anti-racism scholarship at SIUE. Schoch said she and Keith felt it was important to help people in their community.
“We have shirts for sale that say the names of those who have been a victim of police violence and also standing together as a unified group and saying that Black lives matter — all sorts of Black lives,” Schoch said. “The money we’re collecting from that is also going to a scholarship across campus, the anti-racism scholarship that the school set up in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident ... We wanted to donate to Black Lives Matter, but we felt that this was better because it affects people in our own community.”
The march was predominantly attended by athletes, each marching with their respective teams, but there were also other students and members of the local community.
To find out more about SAAC, visit their Twitter. For information about SIUE Athletics, visit their website.