Patience and Change
Last weekend, posters mysteriously appeared around campus. Although not officially affiliated with the movement, the writer of the poster printed the Amherst Uprising logo at the top and began the message with the accusatory question,“Where have you gone Amherst Uprising???” followed by a sarcastic “Congratulations!!!” At first glance, the poster seems to suggest that students bring back the Amherst Uprising movement more publicly, but the poster’s actual language instead diminishes the work participants of Amherst Uprising have put into the movement. Sure, the movement to address institutional racism at the college has been far from perfect, but it is still an ongoing process. By downplaying the work that has been done thus far without any constructive criticism, the author of the posters seems to be making a provocative statement purely for the sake of getting a reaction, without doing anything productive.
Students should not be patting themselves on the back and calling the movement a success prematurely, but there still needs to be a consideration of the progress that has been made so far. Amherst Uprising served as a catalyst for a more active involvement by students in reshaping the college. For example, the Asian Student Association has been actively creating a stronger contingency and identity among Asian students and their allies following the movement. While the group was created a little before the sit-in, the movement inspired students to take the initiative in seeking a space to comfortably explore their racial identity. This sentiment rings true for many students across campus; there persists a desire to reconnect with and further express their backgrounds.
It’s also important to recognize that the full breadth of results from the sit-in aren’t always displayed publicly. Lord Jeff is gone, President Biddy Martin established a new Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, and there is increased student involvement with the Curriculum Committee. But there are lesser known initiatives occurring around campus, too. Many athletic teams are having difficult conversations regarding topics such as sexuality, socioeconomics and race. Friends still discuss issues that were addressed during Uprising and feeling comfortable doing so. This should not be a moment exclusively of self praise, however, as these conversations did indeed dwindle down, but it’s unfair to say that the movement is gone. Recognizing the importance of these small conversations will allow larger and perhaps more widely effective action to take place.
You can’t plant a few individual seeds and expect an orchard to grow over a short period of time. Similarly, it will take time to bring down the institutionally embedded problems that have persisted at the college for years. This sarcastic message of the posters is just a momentary attempt to pull attention away from the important matters at hand. The movement is not dead — it’s still growing, but Amherst students need to do our part to make sure that the conversations inspired by the sit-in stay alive and spark change.