The following is an open letter to the Wesleyan community from a group of students of color. It appeared earlier today on The Ankh‘s Facebook page and has been published here with these students’ permission. The views reflected here are the writers’ own.
photo by Jacob Seltzer ’17
To the Wesleyan Campus Community:
To be black in an anti-black society is to be a commodity fit for liquidation, it is to be already evidenced as not befitting of life, it is to live under surveillance and always positioned as a potential threat, it is living under the conditions of imprisonment (of our senses of self, expressions, bodies, gender articulations, and sexualities).
So when we say that Black Lives Matter, we are not implying that other lives do not matter. We are reaffirming our existence in a country that continues to do everything it can to demolish and obliterate black and brown lives. By speaking out against institutional, structural, and systemic racism, by affirming Black Lives Matter, we are liberating ourselves from these systems of oppression.
We do not have the time, nor luxury, to be caught up in this smokescreen of free speech. Let us be clear: this is not an issue of your free speech. This is an issue of our voices being silenced, our communities under attack. Free speech is not a one-dimensional highway—white, cisgender, heterosexual men are not the only ones with the right to free speech.
When students of color speak our lives into existence, our speech comes under attack. When we defend our lives, we are harassing you. When we demand safety, we are attacking you. Our unapologetic voices are deranged screams; our open hands are clenched fists; our cellphones, weapons, our pigment, targets.