This week, members of the UNC community have organized several events in solidarity with Ukraine. This comes at a time where Russian forces are actively invading the Eastern European nation.
Events to show support to victims included a vigil outside Dey Hall put on by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Russian Flagship Program, panels featuring academic and professional experts and a history and political science teach-in meant to educate students.
However, some may feel these events are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, pondering if all this will accomplish something. The answer is yes — protests do work.
First off, protests are indicators that a certain group or community is unhappy and will not put up with the current state of events. It's essentially a demand for systematic change.
As Frederick Douglas once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand.”
We witnessed it with the swift arrest of Derek Chauvin in response to the murder of George Floyd following widespread protests.
And it is each protest that matters. From Minneapolis, Berlin to Chapel Hill, the display of a group of people demanding justice is powerful. They demonstrate the power in student movements, such as Black Student Movement.
Some may say the effect of UNC students protesting for Black Lives Matter is minimal. However, when we demand equity and justice, it shows we are united together for a greater cause than ourselves. There is no cause or event too little to display support.
All of it lies in the power of solidarity. Solidarity entails taking action on the front lines, with more than just words, to improve the circumstances of others. It shows that no matter how large or small the gathering, we are fighting for change.
Solidarity shows that there are people from all over the country, and even all around the world, that are demanding justice.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared on video as he addressed thousands of people protesting the war in several European cities, among them Paris, Prague, Lyon, Frankfurt and others.
“Do not turn a blind eye on this,” he said. “Come out and support Ukraine as much as you can … All of you are Ukrainians today, thank you for this.”
In all of this, it is important to remember to speak out about injustices we witness. Even for us that our daily lives are relatively unaffected by the occurring injustice. It is our support that brings power to the cause. For when we don’t speak out, we let inequity run society.
We are often reminded of Martin Niemöller's poem about allowing the rise of Nazism in Germany. Ultimately, it was the silence that led to tyranny. Let's not repeat history and speak out. There is never a cause or protest too small to make a difference.
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.