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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Black activists deserve better from us

Just two weeks into an unparalleled semester, UNC students are getting a much-needed break to navigate the move-out process and adjust to remote learning. All members of the UNC community should be taking a break — especially the activists who fought tirelessly to demand this break in the first place.

Student activists are doing the work many of us are unwilling or too scared to do. They are on the front lines of change at our University, pushing to create a safe space for all facets of our campus community.

But we can’t forget that their work started long before the pandemic began. UNC has a long history of student activism on its campus. In the face of Silent Sam and the direct threat of white supremacist groups stampeding our campus to the violent and predatory tactics employed by UNC Police, student activists and workers have remained tenacious voices of justice and equity for years. Today, amid a global pandemic, they now fight for the health and safety of thousands of campus workers, faculty, students and local community members.

Most importantly, however, we must acknowledge the work of Black activists. Their efforts, time and perseverance are too often co-opted or erased by white institutions whose intentions are less genuine. The Editorial Board recognizes that we, too, are guilty of this — The Daily Tar Heel has repeatedly failed to place Black voices at the center of the narrative, which has caused harm to these communities. 

The activists holding the University and their fellow students accountable deserve credit for the mental, physical and emotional labor they have dedicated on behalf of other marginalized and overlooked communities. Despite classes, work and threats to their personal safety, Black activists have been relentless in their fight for justice. 

Organizations such as Black Congress and Black Student Movement have been instrumental in providing information and advocating for change. Through petitions, compiling resources, organizing protests and more, Black activists have persisted even as the University has left them vulnerable. Now, as the University has once again proven itself incapable of protecting its students, these organizations have found ways to support those whom the University has failed. 

UNC BSM and the Commission for Campus Equality & Student Equity have started mutual aid funds to assist students who have been displaced or adversely affected by the University’s abrupt decision-making. Additionally, the Commission for Campus Equality & Student Equity hosts a forum on its website for students to share their fears and concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Editorial Board recognizes that our position is one of relative privilege — we risk relatively little in our quest to hold the University accountable. We get to remain somewhat anonymous and throw around "colorful" language to get our point across, and are commended for doing so. Meanwhile, Black activists on campus put their lives and jobs at stake — all while navigating the trauma of being Black at UNC — and receive no recognition or reward. 

Black activists deserve better. They deserve better from us, from the University and from their peers. Just as the University has wronged its Black students by perpetuating white supremacy, we, too, have failed them by drowning out their voices and ignoring their concerns.