provisional home of the College of Debtors in Defiance
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Letter From UC Davis
Open Letter to the Public
I keep hearing, "Why can't Occupy UC Davis be like those great protests of our past? Like the peace protests? Everyone was behind those students at Kent State."
A Gallup Poll conducted one week after the Kent State shootings found that 58 percent of the public blamed the students themselves, while only 11 percent blamed the National Guardsmen. Newsweek, May 18, 1970, p. 30. They got what was coming to them.
We look into the past at successful social justice movements and idealize them. Of course the civil rights movement was right. Of course women should have the right to vote. Of course abolitionists would prevail. We take these things for granted; who could ever have disagreed with these sentiments? We forget that these movements had an uphill battle for a reason, that, in their time, their heroes were condemned as radicals, thugs, troublemakers, dirty bums, agitators, and more, just as protesters of today are condemned.
We also have a very selective memory. Many people mention Kent State, but have you ever heard anyone ever invoke the massacre at Jackson State University, just ten days later, where police indiscriminately barraged a student dormitory, killing two students of color? When creating our glorious narrative of that era of civil disobedience in the name of social justice, how easily we gloss over certain events and emphasize others. We must remember, after the pepper spray wears off and the necessary inconveniences of a protest continue, not to apply the standards of this idealized past to the activists of social conscience of today and tomorrow.