By Alana Penny
After more than 100 days of protests and months of investigation into her death, the two officers who shot Breonna Taylor in her home, were not charged with her death. One of the officers was charged with endangering Taylor’s neighbors by recklessly firing his gun. The grand jury made their decision Sept. 23 and protests in Louisville have been taking place since.
Last Friday the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion held a virtual processing space for students, faculty and staff. Attendees were put into Zoom calls based on their racial identity, black, Indigenous and people of color or people of whiteness, and then separated students from staff. At the end, everyone met on Rugar Street to show solidarity and support for BIPOC students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Plattsburgh community.
Rebecca Coolidge, a senior social work major and intern for the Center for Diversity Equity and Inclusion, facilitated the students of whiteness group. There were about six students in the group. She said the groups were split to allow students of whiteness to process their emotions surrounding Taylor’s death and the outcome of the trial without hindering their BIPOC peers’ processing. This is so that in the future, they can support their BIPOC peers without inflicting anymore trauma on them.
They opened the group meeting by listening to a poem by Aja Monet, a contemporary poet, called #SayHerName. Assistant Professor of political science John McMahon said the poem brought up the idea that white people’s freedom is ‘tied up’ with black people’s freedom.
“I strongly believe that addressing and redressing antiblack racism is something that white folks need to take collective and individual responsibility for,” McMahon. “And I think that something like the Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor space is part of the self-reflection and education work that is necessary for that.”
Coolidge said the space showed her how many supportive students of witness there are at SUNY Plattsburgh.
She said this is important to have because forcing a BIPOC student to think about and discuss situations like Taylor’s death with a person of whiteness can lead to more trauma for them.
“It helped me to see other people with my skin tone who were just as outraged and saddened by what was going on and the things that we were seeing and hearing in the media and social media,” Coolidge said. “It really helped me validate that we are fighting for the right thing when we are working towards equity and equality.”