Straight from print: AU liberals are failing
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's Feb. 24, 2017 special edition.
On April 27, 1989, students across the People’s Republic of China took to the streets in an act of defiance against the repressive totalitarian government under which they lived.
Initially, the student-led protest centered its demands on the development of democracy, the destruction of corruption and the opening of social institutions like the press and higher education. Student leaders had organized and mobilized their campus in a massive and powerful demonstration against the state.
Their passion and courage began to inspire wider support. Soon, workers’ parties joined the student protesters in support of their ideals of anti-corruption and decentralization of power.
This incredible demonstration of popular dissent and courage forced the government into a general state of emergency and immediately began a negotiation process. Although it may seem like a completely abstract and distant reality, universities and institutions of higher education have a long history of political dissent and mobilization. Students have led famous actions that have inspired millions to act, leading to concessions from governments and even the toppling of regimes.
In an era of political tension in our country, the University and especially its “progressive” liberal student population must embody this spirit of mobilization and stand in opposition to an increasingly racist, xenophobic, sexist, ableist and power hungry regime. The resistance movement is failing.
On Feb. 3, No Lost Generation, an organization dedicated to informing the student body about refugee issues, hosted a demonstration called “AU Stands Up: Rally for Refugees and Immigrants.” Despite the Facebook event having 296 people ‘going’, 648 people ‘interested’ and 1,200 people ‘invited,’ the actual attendance never exceeded 30-40 people. This is not a commentary on the organizing skills or effort of No Lost Generation but on the woeful state of mobilization on AU’s campus.
Standing out in the cold with a few dozen others listening to students give their personal experiences as refugees and immigrants, I couldn’t help but wonder why the hundreds of students walking by us, most of whom I am sure are self-described ‘liberals,’ ‘progressives’ or ‘Democrats,’ wouldn’t stop for at least a few minutes and listen.
This lack of action could be a result of disinterest, too much trust in the electoral system or an abundance of privilege. Whatever the reasons, I call on our campus to do better.
For the many of us who exist in a position of extreme privilege compared to those impacted by the incoming regime’s proto-fascist policies, we cannot sit by and let these actions stand. Students can be the foot soldiers for important movements that demand change and resist oppression. We can be the organizers that spark the next popular resistance movement.
If you are able to, it is not enough to say you are a liberal, or to say you are against racism, or to share Huffington Post articles whose content amounts to “Trump: Sad Face Emoji.” If you are able and truly believe in equality and justice, you must mobilize and agitate.
Demonstrative opposition to the Trump regime and to the rise of far right powers across the world is the only thing which will stop us from conceding ground to the rise of global fascism. Groups like the College Democrats, who have not organized any events whatsoever in response to racist and Islamophobic executive orders, are complicit in the administration’s ability to act without punishment or response from the populace.
Of course, when I urge folks to come out and mobilize, I am not referring to those who for various reasons cannot do so. Our undocumented, Muslim/Muslim passing, mentally ill, trans, low income and Black siblings and peers are often at special risk in these movements.
I direct my call of action at the majority of AU students that are white. I challenge the men, the able bodied and minded, the wealthy and financially stable and the non-black people of color. All of us should stand in solidarity with those who will be punished more harshly for standing up and fighting for their rights.
I implore you as an AU student, as a self-described liberal, as a leader of a student organization. Organize protests, sit-ins and actions. Educate yourself about student activism. Mobilize your peers and friends to act. Embody the revolutionary spirit of your predecessors and peers throughout history. Most importantly, do better. The future is counting on you.
Antonio Álvarez-Ramirez is a sophomore in the School of International Service and College of Arts and Sciences. He is the Economic Development Policy Expert at the AU Roosevelt Institute and a Director on the AUSG Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.