Emily Larsen, a student at UNM, wrote a letter appearing in Friday’s Daily Lobo which stated that “the hate and resentment expressed toward the ‘rich and white’ (allegedly by #OURUNM at our first march) is not only counterproductive to solving the fiscal issues students face, but is counterproductive to building a community of acceptance. We will never have a peaceful society while race is still used as a substitute for income or culture.”
As white, working-class students who participated in the march and hereby support #OURUNM, we would like the opportunity to respond.
What we think is most disturbing about the above statement is the fact that she, a white person, does not want to recognize and engage in critical and powerful conversations about ethnic and racial disparities at UNM. Rather, she dodged this question altogether. She did not bother to come to the #OURUNM table that has been open to all students who want an accountable, transparent, equitable and inclusive university. Instead, because she feels threatened as a white person with privilege, she decided to publicly denounce the whole movement because she refuses to discuss the historical realities of how racialized violence is played out at UNM.
What we wonder is this: How is it that she gets to frame questions of what a grassroots, all-inclusive and diverse movement should focus on without coming to talk with us?
We acknowledge the structures of racism and white supremacy that exist, and we acknowledge our complicity as white people in these structures and we seek to actively challenge and fight against them. We stand with #OURUNM because we believe in an inclusive, diverse and fully represented university community. Contrary to Larson’s irresponsible and inaccurate analysis that separates race and class, we recognize the inseparability of race and class and refuse to allow ourselves to be pitted against working-class people of color who share a common belief that we all have a right to the University.
Finally, we reject the “peace” and civility of injustice offered to us by the UNM administration, defended by the dean of students and regurgitated to us by Emily Larsen with the Young Americans for Liberty Club. Rather, we heed the historical call of Frederick Douglass: “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” We call on all who want a transparent, equitable, accountable and inclusive University that represents all of us to join us in this struggle!
John Mitchell, UNM Law Student
Rebecca Hampton, UNM Undergraduate, International Studies and Linguistics
Michael Butler, UNM Undergraduate, American Studies