Youth in Action, January-February 2020

January 21, 2020

From the January-February 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Buddy Bell

Amidst what the Anti-Defamation League has documented as an 84% rise in white supremacist incidents on college campuses since 2016, the student body at Syracuse University (SU), led by Black students, rose up against the administration’s inaction. Racist graffiti on a freshman dormitory’s bulletin board and in a bathroom prompted students to start a sit-in inside the student center on Nov. 13. They demanded the university president punish any students found to be involved. A list of 19 demands included: “different punishments for different levels of involvement, including expulsion.”

During the sit-in, more incidents occurred: A swastika was drawn in the snow, anti-Chinese graffiti were found at a dormitory, a Black woman walking home was shouted at with a racial slur as she passed the Alpha Chi Rho frat house, and several students in the library received the New Zealand mosque shooter’s white supremacist manifesto on their phones via a sharing app. SU student Jabrill Williams told Citrus TV: “When these things happen…racial slurs are being written on walls, and people getting [mad] at people at parties and yelling racial slurs at them…it really makes us feel like we don’t belong.”

The sit-in lasted until Nov. 20, when the university president at a public forum refused to sign on to all of the demands. Two hours later, after 100 students marched through campus and back to the campus center, he did agree to sign. A month later, the #NotAgainSU student organization that grew out of the protests criticized SU for posting reports of hate-related incidents on a website instead of emailing the student body as they had agreed.

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Pro-Iran militias have violently attacked daily demonstrations in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya on several occasions. On Nov. 28 gunfire killed 100 people and injured 350, the majority between 15 and 25 years old. For several months protesters have decried public corruption as the region’s oil wealth is pilfered by public officials who don’t tackle unemployment and mass poverty. Internet access has been severely curtailed since October. Although the Nov. 28 massacre led to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s resignation, militias attacked the protesters again on Jan. 7 and brought torches to burn a protest camp. A 22-year-old girl told the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto: “If you go out into the streets to protest, you’re risking your life. But it’s better to die than to live like this.”

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The U.S. Youth Climate Strike, an organization which makes no candidate endorsements, will hold a climate strike protest on every Friday preceding a primary election or caucus. The organization will also train interested youth in how to station themselves outside of polling places on Election Day. Minnesota high school junior Ava Corey-Gruenes said in an interview with TeenVogue: “We’re urging voters to make climate justice their first priority.”

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