Editorial: Macalester has failed its Black students

Editorial: Macalester has failed its Black students

Content Warning: Please be advised that this article contains discussion of the death of Daunte Wright, systemic racism and police violence.

There are no words to encompass grief this vast.

There are no words to express our outrage that Daunte Wright, a community member, a young person, a Black man, has been extrajudicially murdered by the police in Minnesota — a place that has become synonymous with state violence.

Black students at Macalester have gone above and beyond to express their needs to the college: they have asked for time to mourn, and they have been ignored. 

Instead, Macalester, a school that has time and again reiterated its commitments to racial justice, mental health and student needs, has turned around and denied the care students are asking for. 

Macalester is once again failing its Black students, and in turn failing all its students. Despite distance — for some measured in feet and for others in miles — the student body has cried out in unison for relief. This is what they’re saying:

The following are student submissions to a Google Form The Mac Weekly published on Tuesday, April 13. They are published in the order we received them. The form is still open, and we will update this article periodically with new submissions.


Anonymous: Macalester needs to stop placing the burdens once again on Black students to advocate for their needs, instead of providing space and time for healing, without making students choose to forgo class. Do better Mac and Mac community, stop leaving it your BIPOC peers to do the work.

A pissed off black person: I went to a racist high school but I genuinely preferred the blatant racism I faced there to the trauma and disregard that I have faced by the hands of this institution. I wish I was being dramatic but unfortunately I am not. The microaggressions, the performative activism, the echo chambers, the erasure of Black voices, all of it I am done. This administration is a joke at best, violent at worst. 

Anonymous: I am so angry. Macalester published pictures of me (a Black student) on their website last year to promote their value of multiculturalism. It is hurtful to know I am nothing more than an advertisement and diversity number the college uses. If Macalester practiced what they preached they already would have canceled school and would be centering the needs of Black students. When prospective students of color ask me what it is like to be a Black student at Macalester I will be brutally honest. 

Anonymous: As a black student on campus, living through all that has happened in the past few days has been emotionally exhausting. Although I understand that things in school need to carry on, I feel that we can do a lot more to acknowledge the fear and tension that other black students have had to silently, yet painfully mask as they walk through campus and try to get through the day.

Anonymous: I understand where people are coming from when they ask for classes to be cancelled after tragedies like the killing of Daunte Wright. But everyone grieves differently and when I grieve, I really depend on sticking to my routine and interacting with others. Even when I’m not grieving, I struggle with depression during breaks from school and especially summer because I need that structure in my day. That’s why I think cancelling classes is actually a poor response from the administration. I know I’m not the only student who leans on daily routines and classes when they’re coping with loss and trauma. At the same time, I fully acknowledge that others feel just as strongly that going to classes is detrimental to their health and well-being in the wake of tragedy. That is just as valid. Therefore, making classes optional is the best course of action because it meets the needs of the most people. I realize it’s an imperfect solution but I strongly believe it’s better than canceling classes outright.

Bri: I’m tired of this institution ignoring its Black students. I’m tired of being used as a prop. I don’t want to be a token diversity pick, I want to be treated like an actual human being. To have Black death and pain be ignored when its LITERALLY so close to us and connected to us is upsetting. I feel like Macalester does not care about me. If one of us were to die, even to police violence, we wouldn’t get anything more than an email and “thoughts and prayers.” Your Black students are angry. You do not care about us, as much as you want to say you do. You care about the majority of your population, the ones who don’t care about us, and that’s why you don’t give us time to mourn. I want to be treated with respect and love and care. There are only 98 Black students at a school of over 2,000, less than there were during EEO. I’m tired and upset with Macalester. I have nothing else to give to this place, since they have no respect or care for its Black students. Wake up, Macalester. 

Anonymous: Mac sending out an email telling us that the murder of Daunte Wright is wrong is below the bare minimum that they could do. If the college actually took this seriously, maybe they would take into account how hard it is for students to pretend like nothing is happening and how we are expected to continue like normal. For many students, especially BIPOC students, this just piles on top of this already difficult year. I want to see more than words out of Macalester, actually give students some support.

Anonymous: The school has really shown it’s true colors. You cannot say “Black Lives Matter” and disrespect Black voices. On top of that, how are you going to tell us how students should react? You do not get to dictate what we do. You do not get to tell student leaders how they should respond. Take some responsibility Dr. Rivera, you are no longer new, you are not listening to us, you are causing harm but refuse to admit your mistakes yet have no issue emailing students on theirs (or for expressing themselves in disagreement with you). LISTEN to the Black community. I’m so fucking tired of the same bullshit response that caters to those who are unharmed by police brutality. I can go to class because I am ok, friends of mine feel so guilty for skipping because of the trauma. How is that just? Should we not be ensureing the most vulnerable feel safe and supported????? I had a lot of respect for Macalester when I first came here, and i had a lot of respect for you, Dr. Rivera, when you first came; but over the last 9 months, watching the institution purposefully not support Black students, i have absolutely no respect for any of you.

Colleen Apostle: It pains me that I have to watch my classmates have to put themselves in harm’s way, like clockwork, to cry out for justice only to be dealt more violence by all manner of authorities in our lives. When they protest peacefully, militarized police shoot them with rubber bullets or tear gas. When they petition Macalester College and it’s institutional leaders, they are met with silence, or a response that might as well be silent too. 

It pains me all the more than there’s only so much I can do from studying remotely halfway across the country. I can only retweet other classmates’ stellar words and post on social media, donate money, or help with consciousness raising with the DML’s Unlearning White Supremacy group. I can write this opinion for the Mac Weekly. These are small things that I can do everyday. But these are small. These actions are not enough on their own without the action of the institution itself. It pains me that students and professors and staff have to navigate this again and again, like clockwork, with no support or leadership from the most powerful offices of Macalester. 

How many years are we going to spend listening and learning? How much longer until we refuse for this to be normal? How many more people have to suffer from state violence until this institution decides to act? The time is now. To the leaders of Macalester—professors, department heads, heads of staff, President Rivera herself, and more—silence in the face of injustice is not a neutral position. I echo what my classmates demand: Give Black students the time to mourn. 

Anonymous: Can this college please give more to us than they take? I feel like I’m put on this campus to adapt to the institution and/or my white classmates’ needs. I came here to learn and to grow. I came here for myself, for my family, and for my community. I really hope they know that each time the institution doesn’t listen or disregards our cry for help, their harm goes so deep. Saying “oh some students need class to heal” when the majority of your (only 90) black students are yelling otherwise makes me think you care more about these invisible voices than you do us. I want to give this college the benefit of the doubt, but more often than not I’m seeing evidence of admin caring more about their reputation or invisible needs, than mine and others like mine. I’m seeing my black classmates (like Fatiya and Ayana) burn themselves out doing everything that this college should be doing. Give us money, give us care, give us space, and just let us breathe.

Anonymous: Please stop talking from academic perspective when your theories don’t match your daily actions. BLM but you speak over us, invalidate our space, don’t have black people who are your friends or trust you. Admin, students, staff, faculty, every aspect of Mac doesn’t even seem to know what it means to not be racist… let alone anti-racist.

Anonymous: Macalester’s Black students have tirelessly explained the kind of response they need from Mac admin and have been met with emails beating around the bush and ignoring them. Macalester needs to start acknowledging their part in perpetuating Black pain and seriously reconsider how they are going to support their Black students. The response we have seen so far is disgusting, and the administration should be beyond ashamed of themselves. Do better NOW.

Anonymous: I have not yet seen this college sacrifice something to protect student’s wellbeing.

Ayana Smith-Kooiman: I’ve been so mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted this week that I almost missed filling out this form. I’m sure I’m not the only Black person on campus feeling that way either. We have been drowned by overwork and burnout in this hellscape called the module system and inundated with death for over a year with only wellness days sprinkled throughout to help us practice “self-care”. 

During the latest “wellness” day, many students awoke to or became reacquainted with the news that a local young Black man, the same age that I am, had been murdered by the police the day before only 20 minutes away from where Macalester stands and in the middle of the Chauvin murder trial. More Black trauma and Black grief and Black anger on full display. Many of us, myself included made the drive to Brooklyn Center to protest outside the precinct that Monday night and when we got back we emailed and tweeted and begged President Rivera to use her administrative powers to cancel classes for the next day to give a bit more space for Black students in particular to grieve. We know that she can because we made similar pleas when Kai Davis passed away earlier this academic year. 

That was the bare minimum Macalester College could have done and even that was too much for them. The excuse that other students may benefit from classes for connection and community and leaving the decision to cancel classes up to professors was an absolute cop-out (pun intended) and abdication of responsibility on Rivera’s part. For one, the audacity of the president to put out an article articulating the grief and anger we have been feeling for clicks but doing nothing when presented with Black, Indigenous and POC needs and demands is sickening, performative and dehumanizing. Quote, “Black, Indigenous and other people of color on our campuses are tired… Tired of explaining and performing our grief and trauma for people who previously were unaware of or unbothered by racism, social inequality and violence.” To write these words and then force students to explain and perform their grief and trauma in order to get even a glimpse of rest is repugnant, and I will never forget the moment I read those words and the anger I felt rise in me from them. She knew and did nothing because it made her look better. I can’t forgive that.

Additionally, President Rivera’s excuse, the same one she used after Kai Davis died in fact, that people would find solace in classes is trash. The people benefiting from classes are the people who are seemingly least affected: our predominantly white student population. I’m not going to mince words or tip-toe around it. If you feel no emotional connection to the issue, you’re not going to care. Which is why I ended up angry crying on a zoom call with my advisor lamenting the plight of Black STEM students because I knew they were not going to get the care or time they needed to center themselves. STEM at Macalester has demonstrated time and again that they don’t care about student well-being and dance around or don’t mention at all the racial issues or topics in the courses and work. Many likely didn’t move deadlines and carried on with “business as usual” leaving Black students especially to decide whether they care for their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing or go to class so that they don’t fall behind because one day of instruction missed in the module can set you behind for weeks and when the module is only 7.5 weeks — paint the picture. Encouraging professors to do anything has been wildly unsuccessful this year, especially in STEM, so President Rivera’s “inability” to cancel classes set many students up for more stress and exhaustion in an already naturally exhausting week.

My peers and I are straddling a line of providing for our community and protecting our health and wellbeing and it has been difficult and exhausting. We need white people at this school, especially white faculty, staff and administrators, to start stepping up and actually following some of these values of multiculturalism, service to society, racial equity, social and climate justice and internationalism that this school is so good at advertising but is shit at following through on. Macalester College needs to do a thorough internal evaluation of whether their actions match their purported values. Because right now, it really doesn’t seem like they do. And I’m tired of expending uncompensated labor trying to get them to match up. We have been vocal. We have been adamant. We have been ignored. No more. 

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