By Abdirizak Jama – [email protected]
Our community is bleeding. Harm has been inflicted on this community that sent shock waves through us all. It was disheartening to watch the students that were chanting divisive words on the Saturday night [Feb. 4] Link bus.
This harm was not caused by students who voiced their opinion and had the courage to stand up against the hateful actions that took place. This was caused by the misguided individuals whose values are in opposition to love, respect and inclusiveness.
Watching the video made me anxious and afraid in a community I have called home for the last three years. I couldn’t believe that this was happening at our school, and I was shaken to my core. My sense of belonging was weakened. I felt isolated and couldn’t identify as a Johnnie anymore.
My favorite thing about CSB/SJU is the set of Benedictine values we adhere to. It’s the nucleus of our community. It brings us all together through respect and love. Johnnies come from everywhere around the world. I was born in the horn of Africa.
It’s our love and hospitality that attracts these students and ultimately brings us together.
Divisive and racially charged chants such as “build that wall” directly threaten and attack these values. They do not only hurt me, but they affect all of us.
Jesus said that—”What you did to the least of these, you did to me.” This community is like that of a body; if one part aches the whole body aches.
One of our core Benedictine values is community living: “To become who we are by our relationship with others.” A community is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. As President, your role at our University means that your opinion and stance on these issues of concern set a tone for the whole community.
In regard to this issue, our Benedictine value states: “We hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend.”
Declaring a neutral position when it comes to inclusivity, for every member of this community to feel respected and valued, does not reflect the values of this institution. This is a failure to safeguard the common good. Blaming the victims or staying silent and not taking a position does not uphold the values we hold dear to our hearts.
We should celebrate the bravery and courage it took for students and faculty to stand up for what is right. If we sweep these problems under the rug we do not further the cause of justice in our community.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
We need more than a few minority students with a microphone speaking of what is right. We have done that for too long. It’s time to take steps forward together and have conversations with the people who are different from you.
Ask us questions. Learn about our cultures from our point of view as we have done and continue to do with you. Get to know us on a personal level.
As humans, we fear the unknown. My response, then, is get to know us and you no longer will fear.
Speaking for myself and for all of those who choose inclusiveness over exclusiveness, who choose strength over fear and choose love over hate, we would like the administration at St. John’s to support us through this difficult time of divisiveness on campus and national political turmoil and live up to your responsibilities as leaders of our community.
This is the opinion of Abdirizak Jama, SJU junior.