As I begin my senior year at Bowdoin, my mind races. My thoughts have always been rapid; growing up as the oldest daughter in a single-parent household has its fair share of challenges, and being an educated Black woman in the United States has even more. While my experience is my own, there are many people who can resonate with the identities I hold: fat, queer, spiritual, child of an immigrant and Black. Blackity Black, if you will.
This was a summer for the history books. I returned from studying in Ghana, where I enjoyed the company of other Black women and femmes as the world was trying to recover from the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. Being in Ghana was literally the best decision I made since coming to Bowdoin because I was close to completely shutting down by the time junior fall ended. I was miserable existing in such a white space where I had to always be performing a personality for my peers. Having a community of queer Black femmes to pull me out of the deep hole I hadn’t even realized I was stuck in was the warm embrace I needed. The grief I’ve felt since returning to the United States, however, has only made me fall into yet another deep hole. Mourning the thousands of people losing their fight to the viruses plaguing this country has been close to unbearable, and the response of some of my white counterparts has made my heart heavy.
On one hand, we have the COVID-19 pandemic: a virus that has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people in the United States alone. On top of this, we have an administration that has shown that it does not care about the health and safety of its citizens. The conflicting information on safe practices combined with the individualistic nature of the people who reside in the United States has made it incredibly difficult to focus on my future and the future of my community. Health professionals only ask people to stand 6 ft apart and wear a mask, to stay home, to care for your neighbor and those on the other side of the tracks, but for some people the thought of their neighbor suffering does not move them to action.
On the other hand, we have racial tensions coming to a head, with Indigenous, Black and brown people everywhere crying out for their neighbors to listen and act accordingly as comrades. I say comrades because, as Chidera Eggerue said, “The concept of an ally is useless to me. Because for allies to exist, there would need to be enemies. So for white allies to exist, there would still need to be white supremacy. If white supremacy never existed, you wouldn’t be my ally. You would be my friend.”
This is the biggest movement we’ve ever seen against the systems of policing in this country, and the way police officers have taken advantage of their position as the protectors of wealthy, white property must end. Just recently, one of our very own members of the Bowdoin community was harassed and beaten by a police officer and an Instagram page—presumably started by another Bowdoin student or alumnus—was created to slander her name and reputation. Is this the Common Good we stand for?
Since returning to campus, I’ve finally had the space to pull myself out of a dark depression that had me hunkered down in my childhood bedroom, awake until 4 a.m. every night, worried about when the next civil war is coming. Because in my mind, and given the role whiteness and imperialism have played in historical and modern society, genocide, war and destruction are the only language that those who run this country will ever understand. The destruction of white property is the only way we get politicians to pay attention; the news only covers protestors once they defend themselves against the instigators, omitting the role police officers play in escalating the situations. The general public only tunes in when sensational headlines denounce the movement and then the complacency sets in once again. This complacency and apathy towards our neighbors allows fascism to rear its ugly head in all facets of our lives, and if we don’t get serious about denouncing it, we may finally see the war I fear.
The culture of complacency that exists in this country exists just as saliently on Bowdoin’s campus. This culture has been exacerbated by the invisible threat of a virus no one truly understands. Just last weekend, there was a large gathering of students at Farley Field House and Bowdoin security officers simply waved at the students as they walked in droves to their destination. All it took was a bold-faced lie from some white athletes, and just like that, the gathering was allowed to continue. If a scavenger hunt was actually approved by the College, wouldn’t security have been made aware? Would ResLife staff and upperclassmen really be so perturbed about core groups going stargazing? This complacency and willingness to allow wealthy, white athletes to run this campus into the ground and endanger the health and safety of vulnerable students who petitioned to be here may very well bring about the end of our semester. I can only hope that none of these cases end in a death.