TO THE EDITOR:
Your activism amplifies the voice of the powerless, commands the attention of the powerful and forces awareness on the ignorant.
We want to take a moment to let you know how strongly it impacts us, the Tar Heels who came before you.
Most of you were toddlers when my classmates and I arrived at Chapel Hill 18 years ago. Our claim to fame is that we were the first to get unc.edu email addresses and the last to do class registration over the phone. UNC was an absolutely amazing place then, but not without its challenges. While we were students, we demanded recognition for the unsung founders of the school — the people of color whose names do not appear on campus buildings. We agitated to improve wages for housekeepers, groundskeepers and dining service workers. We followed in the footsteps of our predecessors, whose calls for minority-student recruitment and tuition initiatives paved the way for us all to call ourselves Tar Heels. Like the students who came before us, we were on a crusade to make the University a better place than we found it.
The crusade against police brutality is one that spans generations. Today’s cameras have given mainstream America the eyewitness validity our eyewitness accounts never got. Like many of you, I’ve seen Oscar Grant’s last moments, heard Eric Garner’s last words and watched Philando Castile draw his last breath. I witnessed Walter Scott’s execution and followed Sandra Bland on her last drive. I saw Sam Dubose get shot in the face and had a bird’s-eye view of Terence Crutcher’s fatal breakdown.
On Friday, watching Keith Lamont Scott senselessly lose his life in Charlotte completely knocked the confidence out of me. How can we verify progress when these killings come in such flagrantly rapid succession?
Saturday, I sat down intending to watch my alma mater play football against the University of Pittsburgh. Instead, I watched my Carolina family take on injustice. Following Colin Kaepernick’s lead, you challenged the sanctity of a football game and had us all rapt.
Nothing is sacred if black lives aren’t sacred and that’s not a matter of opinion. You seized the opportunity to publicly articulate that.
As your bandmates played the national anthem, you chose not to play along, putting patriotic protocol in its place — behind social justice. As thousands celebrated American tradition with song, you protested American indifference with the silence of Sam.
Whether you took a knee, raised a fist or kept your seat, you took a stand for victims of police brutality. You tilted the mirror on institutional racism, and each time anyone does that, America gets a better look. You agitated the satisfied masses and restored my confidence that progress is in motion. With your resolute action, your fearless demonstration, your unapologetic plea, you assured us that this injustice, the one continuously taking black lives, will not survive your watch.
Personally, it doesn’t take a die-in for me to understand the gravity of death, and I don’t need signs reminding me whose lives matter. You impact those who need convincing as well as those of us who don’t. We’ve been admiring you from afar for a while; 525 of us are revealing ourselves now. For lack of a lesser-used term, you are our future.
We need to know that you’ve got this. Thank you for showing us that you do.
Class of ‘02
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