by: Tallahassee SDS and Oshkosh SDS

The campaign and subsequent election of President Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacists in recent years; they have been holding rallies and marches across the country, including high-profile speaking engagements at various universities. They have defended the usage of racist symbolism; such as Confederate flags, statues to Confederate leaders and slave owners,and buildings honoring prominent racists. Every step of the way, progressive organizations like SDS have stood up to challenge this racist rhetoric, and in many cases, have been able to win positive demands that directly challenge threats to oppressed people.

The United States is a country built on the continued oppression of Black people. At universities all over the country, racism still pervades in hiring and admissions practices, as well as underfunded or non-existent African American studies or similar departments. Many universities also honor racists, Confederates, and slave owners with statues, building names, and other such recognitions: this problem particularly affects universities in the South. One instance of a struggle against these monuments was led by the SDS chapter at Florida State University in Tallahassee. This July, FSU administration removed a statue of slave owner and Confederate supporter Francis Eppes, who was previously honored as the university’s founder, and agreed to take further action on a building named after the segregationist B. K. Roberts.

The victory in Tallahassee is merely a small part of a national movement to fight back against racist symbols on universities across the country. In August of this year, activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill toppled “Silent Sam”, a statue of a Confederate soldier that stood for over a century in a prominent place there. Other campaigns are ongoing, such as the fight to remove the name of Confederate General Albert G. Jenkins from a building at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. University students have also had important roles in the fights against racist monuments in the area around their campuses: this includes the students at Duke University’s role in removing a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, as well as the role of University of Virginia students in the ongoing struggle against racist statues in Charlottesville. With each successful campaign like this, the movement for Black liberation grows stronger and the powers of white supremacy grow more afraid of organized people power.

SDS chapters should take concrete steps to investigate and challenge white supremacist narratives that pervade our campuses and communities. This includes contacting professors and other historical experts on the history of African American oppression in our area. For too long, racists have been allowed to monopolize the telling of history, and it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and correct the erasure of oppressed voices.

In all that we do, we must seek to question and dismantle the historically dominant narrative that says Black lives don’t matter. SDS reaffirms its commitment to fighting white supremacy in all of its forms on university campuses: including fighting against hate speech, white supremacist organizing, and against the presence of statues and buildings that honor racists and slave owners as heroes.