An Ode to the Protestors

To the people who say they wanted to hear what Kelly had to say,

His voice is loud and clear every single day.

But if you want to hear his planned speech, it is online.

Look it up yourself and do it in your own time.

Because listening to hate speech is a waste of mine.

I deserve to be here; Ray Kelly does not.

For my entire high school career, Brown was what I sought.

I worked hard everyday, missed out on sleep to get here.

But Kelly got to Brown by instilling fear.

By securing white privilege,

Expanding the gap between different lineages.

By deciding that white equals good and brown equals bad,

So yes, President Paxson, I’d agree that this day was sad.

My school’s administration welcomed a racist man

For reasons I’ll never truly understand.

But I do understand some things, and this is what I’ll say:

Dr. Paxson, you’re white, so to the police, you’re okay.

You can understand rationally that Kelly’s ideas are wrong,

But you never have to worry if your son is out for too long

That maybe today is the day his freedom will be gone.

It is easier to listen to racist comments when you aren’t the victim,

But as a black woman I just can’t stand them.

For years they made me hate the color of my skin,

Made me want to be white just so I would fit in

Made me want to not be judged

I just wanted white skin just so I could be loved.

Because words hurt, you know.

So now I can’t just go with the flow,

Not daring to touch the status quo.

Words aren’t as innocent as they may seem;

They hurt and they dehumanize and they make people bleed.

To the person who said Yale welcomed Rick Santorum and we can do better,

I say I agree, and that’s why I’m writing this letter.

I will not tolerate racist ideas that have led to minority oppression,

I will not tolerate waiting until questioning Kelly is in session.

I will not tolerate racist speech at a white president’s discretion.

I will not tolerate Kelly’s racist views because he has “freedom of expression.”

Why should I wait until I am fully in the white man’s possession,

Always having to be twice as good to make a good impression,

Unable to fight back with any form of aggression,

Watching my minority male friends be stopped-and-frisked in succession,

Making me fall everyday into a deeper depression.

Trying to understand how violating minorities could become a profession,

Trying to figure out how harassing minorities has become an obsession

Excuse me for my digression.

But you know what, here is my Brown University Confession:

To the freshman who said blacks and Hispanics commit more crimes,

I’m sorry to say I believe you must be blind.

Because the mass incarceration of black men

Only proves that this system is not our friend.

Just because white crimes aren’t reported as often doesn’t mean they’re not guilty

So dare I say that your assumption is filthy.

Dear Mr. Freshman, your logic is flawed,

And coming from a Brown student, I’m slightly appalled.

To the person who smugly said “getting searched by a policeman equals life ruined,”

You should get informed before you speak because this fact has been proven.

Talk to Azeem, who has been stopped and frisked thirty times,

And never once committed a crime.

How would you like to not be able to put up a fight

When a cop tells you, “I hoped you would have had something so I could lock you up tonight.”

Talk to the mothers whose sons have been killed during stop-and-frisk,

Talk to the young men of color whose lives are always at risk.

To those who say this gave our school a bad reputation,

Do you think this was what MLK worried about in the Civil Rights situation?

Do you that think he said to himself,

“Most people don’t like the Freedom Rides, let’s try something else.”

Do you think he said “Oh, this KKK meeting isn’t canceled? That’s okay.

I’ll just patiently wait for the Q and A.”

I’m not saying Kelly is as bad as the KKK, clearly he’s not.

I’m saying they are both racist, and both need to be fought.

As a woman of color, I refuse to take orders from a predominantly white administration

Telling me when it’s acceptable to fight against minority violation.

We can ask questions that are tough,

But that’s not enough.

I promise you Kelly’s prepared.

He has answers to all the questions you may want to share.

Tough questions alone wouldn’t have garnered national attention.

Some people think we’re fascists and communists, and not to mention

Spoiled, elitist, closed-minded, but if we care more about reputation than justice,

Then the idea that I go to an open-minded school will be missed.

I support free speech to a certain extent,

But when it leads to racist action, then that I must resent.

I can’t accept “free speech” that violates me,

That degrades me and my people who still aren’t completely free.

That makes me feel like I’ll never be good enough no matter what I do

Because I can never change my skin color, and I’m sorry if brown skin offends you.

I can’t accept “free speech” that leads to unfair policy,

That makes my people lose their privacy.

To the person who made the sarcastic Brown confession:

I wish you would take an Africana lesson

Because “You don’t agree with us? You’re racist” is not what the protesters were saying.

“We don’t want racism to have a voice,” is the message they were conveying.

To the freshman who once asked to call black people Negroes, responding to you is a must.

You said the protesters believe “NO ONE is allowed to disagree with us.”

But they believe that many things are up for debate

But debate about racism is the one thing they refuse to tolerate.

To the white male student who was brave enough to post a quote by MLK

Thank you for making my day.

Excuse me while I diverge from my rhyme scheme because I want people to hear this most of all. I understand the desire to have a civilized discussion, but a discussion that includes the viewpoint of a racist is by default uncivilized. King said, “The Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is the white moderate who says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action,’” and the white moderate who “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

Tough questions are great, but we need change now.

We need to make a statement, and the protesters knew how.

Tomorrow is not good enough for the Hispanic boy who will be physically harassed today.

Tomorrow is not good enough for the Muslim who’s now ashamed of his turban, so I say–

A Q&A is not good enough for Tatiana who now has no father

Because a policeman decided that a black man on New Years Eve was too much a bother.

Watch “Fruitvale Station,” and maybe you’ll understand

That someone needs to stop this Ray Kelly man.

Oscar Grant was killed and now will never have a voice,

Now he can’t speak up, now he doesn’t have a choice.

When will Kelly’s victims be invited to speak at Brown?

When will our administration let their voices be loud?

I’m embarrassed to say I was not part of the protest;

I was a passive bystander as the Brown administration tried to let Kelly justify his mess.

I sat in my dorm as Brown students were prepared to hear the case for racial profiling.

I sat in my dorm as the administration welcomed racist views, all the while smiling.

I sat in my dorm as my campus was about to be poisoned with hate speech,

As a man perpetuating the racial divide was about to attempt to “teach.”

To those upset that the protesters didn’t let Ray Kelly speak,

I’m sorry it offended you that some people value a just campus over free hate speech.

Words matter,

And when people respect hateful words because it’s someone’s “opinion” it just makes me sadder.

To the person who said, “Wait until there is a question and answer part of the program,”

I refuse to wait another minute to take a stand.

To the Brown alum who is “appalled at the behavior of [phe’s] alma mater’s students,”

I’m sorry that you found the protesters imprudent.

Does justification of racial profiling–er, “proactive policing”– qualify as “important conversation?”

I’m sorry that I just don’t see that correlation.

To the person who said that the protesters “employ[ed] playground tactics to hurt [Kelly’s] feelings,”

I have some sources you may find appealing.

Watch a Youtube video as Kelly’s boys bend back a teenager’s arm.

Talk to 88% of stop-and-frisk victims who are innocent and maybe you’ll be alarmed.

I’m sorry that you find Kelly’s feelings more important than the safety of men of color,

And I just hope you’re not a black boy’s mother.

To the person who tried to justify Kelly’s policies by saying on Brown Confessions as you hide

“They are proven to be effective and save human lives.”

You forgot to mention the lives they take away,

They instill fear in minorities every day.

And to the people still defending stop-and-frisk,

There are so many things wrong I could list

Starting with: it’s probably not you who’s at risk,

Knowing that if the police use violence you can’t raise a fist

Because as you may know, this law is racist,

Targeting young men of color who “fit the description,”

Being judged by skin color and their cultural diction,

They are stopped-and-frisked by police with conviction

That based on appearance they can make a prediction.

To those outside the Brown/Providence community,

Please do your research and take this opportunity

To learn about all viewpoints regarding this whole situation

Before assuming that our university is a disgrace to the nation.

So in conclusion, thank you Jenny Li and those who helped the protest succeed.

You’ve made me proud to be a member of Brown University Class of 2017.

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