Students must be unafraid, unashamed and allowed to protest on college campuses.
While the main purpose of college is to further the education of individuals, it also serves as a safe platform for expressing opinions and disagreements.
The stability of a democratic society depends on its citizens’ ability to articulate arguments, respect others’ opinions, refute them and move forward with progressive change.
Without an outward discussion of issues that affect the lives of people everywhere, injustice, even in the smallest forms, will continue.
The idea of expression and dissent is not new. It began with the founding of the United States and echoed throughout the civil rights era.
“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest,” Dr. Martin Luther King said in a 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam.”
In March 1968, 20,000 students walked out of their high schools and colleges to protest against prejudice toward the Chicano community of East Los Angeles.
Students were banned from speaking Spanish in class, and their instructional time was dedicated to a curriculum that excluded Mexican-American history. Instead of carving out pathways to college, counselors and teachers tracked Chicano students into careers of menial labor.
Media coverage of the event was widely censored. However, knowledge of the problem was made public through the physical demonstrations and policy changes that came later due to student activists becoming community leaders.
“The young people who participated realized that they can do this and survive, that their bravery has a payoff, and that they can continue throughout their lives to be activists, which is one of the things that has occurred,” said Moctesuma Esparza, a participant of the 1968 East Los Angeles Walkout, in an interview on Democracy Now!
Furthermore, when students are not allowed to voice their concerns in protest, how far are we willing to draw the line of censorship?
In the case of the Kent State University shooting of 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen open fired on a crowd of student protesters killing four students and wounding nine, according to a CBS report.
The protest erupted after President Richard Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War in April 1970.
Two of the students killed were not involved in the protest, according to OhioHistoryCentral.org.
Violent reactions to protests are more disruptive to the learning environment than the protests themselves.
Therefore, we must not condemn or react violently against others who hold opposing views. Instead, we must embrace our right to freedom of expression and assembly.
King said it best, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”