For the last three months, our lives have been drastically altered by the quarantines, shutdowns, illnesses and deaths caused by the coronavirus. We've spent weeks at a time locked inside and sequestered from the lights and sounds of our public places. Campuses have been deserted, and businesses have been closed. We've been kept apart from our loved ones because the kind of arm-in-arm comfort we rely upon has become dangerous.
But through all of that, through the sickness and the loneliness, many of us were able to find some solace in a shared sense of humanity. We watched videos of people singing and creating music from their balconies. We watched neighbors find creative ways to share each other's company while remaining six feet apart. Even as case counts and death totals climbed, we were able to focus on the thousands of brilliant healthcare professionals who worked 12-hour shifts to save the people we love.
Through the dark malaise of a global pandemic, we found reasons to believe that we were all in this together.
Now, we know better.
Now, we have watched a black man in handcuffs be publicly choked to death by a seemingly remorseless representative of the State. We heard George Floyd tell the officer with his knee on his neck that he couldn't breathe. We heard him call for his dead mother. We watched a man with three kids and a future have his windpipe crushed against the street for nearly nine minutes.
Only a month prior, we watched a black man be hunted down, stopped and shot to death by people in Georgia who nearly got off scot free. Then, we watched the dead man be slandered by people who tried to find any kind of excuse for his death. He was at a construction site, they said. He wasn't wearing jogging clothes, they said. As if those are justifications for being killed on a dirt road by two white men with a shotgun.
Now, we have seen how little value some police officers across the country place on the lives and the bodies of their fellow citizens, especially if those fellow citizens are black. We've watched peaceful protestors be sprayed with pepper spray, shot in the face with tear gas, thrown to the ground and arrested. We've watched journalists be given the same treatment for simply doing their job and reporting the truth.
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Here in Auburn, we are not strangers to the kinds of racial injustice and bigotry that have captured the focus of the American people in the last week.
Three years ago, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi spoke on campus.
Two years ago, the Honors College invited the president of the White Student Union, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group, to speak at one of their events.
Less than two years ago, University-recognized fraternities hung racist banners when Auburn's football team played Alabama State University, a majority black school.
Just this past year, someone left a noose, a recognizable symbol of the lynchings of black Americans that took place for decades in Alabama, in a residence hall.
Despite all of that hate, Auburn's protests for racial justice have remained peaceful. The level of restraint it takes to remain peaceful in the face of centuries of injustice is incredible.
Now, as we all go forward into our daily lives, as businesses and schools attempt to reopen and as protestors continue to fill the streets of our cities with cries for justice and equality, it's imperative that we work together to make our new normal one that promotes equality and fairness over status quo bigotry.
In that light, The Plainsman would like to commend Auburn's SGA, along with several other University organizations, for writing and publishing a letter that uses the Auburn Creed to call for everyone to use their "platforms to speak up and take action against the injustices and racism that still plague our nation today." Because, as the letter states, "The Black members of our Auburn family cannot and should not be expected to do it alone."
This move by SGA to build a team of organizations to tackle the problems that have only now received adequate attention is precisely what student governments should be doing amidst this culture of injustice.
That being said, there is only so much good that any letter can do. Even with a long list of signatures, it is still just a piece of paper that can be thrown away or turned to ash.
That is why it is up to us, the Auburn community, to take the ideals and sentiments expressed so forcefully in their letter and turn them into actions. It is up to the students, alumni, faculty, administrators, citizens and government officials who claim to love this city and school so much, to stand up for the members of our community who have had the knees of injustice on their necks for a lot longer than nine minutes.
These ideas of comradery, humanity and equality were put into the Auburn Creed nearly 60 years ago.
As the SGA's letter states, "It is time that we put action behind them."
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