Students and faculty gathered Monday afternoon to reflect on the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Both men were killed during separate altercations with police officers within 48 hours of one another. The 2-hour discussion in the Student Union allowed participants to speak freely on topics including police brutality and the “Black Lives Matter” versus “All Lives Matter” debate.
The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and the UM Counseling Center.
Ole Miss student Tinecia Francis said she believes this discussion was needed because she is deeply hurt by the events that have transpired.
“It was not what I expected, but it was a conversation I needed to have. It was helpful for me because I am deeply struggling to deal with what is going on right now,” Francis said. “I haven’t had time to really heal or deal with all of this since Trayvon Martin. I suffer deeply every time something happens in the black community that is unjustifiable and nothing is done about it.”
The deaths of Castile and Sterling are among many tragic incidents that have happened in the country recently including the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the shooting of Dallas police officers.
The recent violence has sparked national outrage, prompting protests and marches in various cities across the South, such as Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Memphis and Jackson.
During the conversation, Francis brought up a tweet from UM Chancellor Jeff Vitter where he offered condolences to those who lost their lives in Dallas, but failed to mention anything about Castile and Sterling.
Alice Clark, vice chancellor for University Relations, spoke on Chancellor Vitter’s behalf and said Vitter talks about the loss of everyone and the importance of higher education in his blog post.
“I honestly feel as if Vitter does not understand what inclusiveness means,” Francis said. “His team told us to go look at his blog, but we should not have to do that because he should not have said it.”
Francis was not the only one who had an opinion about the way Chancellor Vitter handled the situation. Jamie Nelms, who works in the Department of Sociology, expressed how she felt about his statement.
“It always seems as though it was after-the-fact,” Nelms said. Nothing was said about Orlando ever from him and he makes an after-the-fact statement on his blog. Why was nothing said about Orlando? Why was nothing said immediately after these two events?”
Emotions were high as people shared their experiences and pondered a solution in light of the recent controversy.
Public policy and African-American studies major Allen Coon discussed his hatred of white supremacy.
“If you are not perpetually enraged you are not there yet,” Coon said. “You realize your enemy is not racism, it’s white supremacy because that’s killing black and brown bodies every day. This country was built on white denial. This University was built on white denial. It needs to become borderline obsessive. What can I do with my body to destroy white supremacy? I’m not free until everybody’s free.”
Emotions were poured out even more as a tearful Francis tried to explain how broken she felt.
Undergraduate student Grafton Sykes was very involved in the conversation and touched on the “Black Lives Matter” movement and its progress.
“There are protests everywhere from all different views, all different perspectives,” Sykes said. “Change is happening. Just because we’re getting tired doesn’t mean the movement is. We have to keep trying, keep thinking ‘What will make them feel this? What will make them feel our pain?’ and as soon as they feel this, then they’ll act like they were the ones with the ideas.”