In what’s sure to be only the beginning of such campus activism, a University of Michigan student “took a knee” for most of yesterday to protest against “all inequality.”
UMich alum and master’s degree candidate Dana Greene Jr. said “It was just sitting with me, that I had to do something.” That “something” was trekking to the campus Diag where he knelt down in what he claims was “an attention-getting move — a conversation starter.”
“I wanted people to ask why?” Greene said. “We focus too much on the how of protests, and not enough on why people are protesting. Everything in my life, personally, is going great. But this wasn’t about me.”
According to The Detroit News, Greene explained his protest wasn’t about just the anti-black, anti-Hispanic, and anti-Muslim sentiment at UMich, but all inequality.
His virtue signaling resulted in quite a few students joining him throughout the day, at least for small bits of time here and there.
Classmates and strangers offered prayers during the 21-hour kneel, including the UM Muslim Students Association, which held an evening prayer at the protest.
When nature called, supporters, who had brought a canopy to the Diag to help Greene beat the heat, would shield him from view so he could relieve himself. When nature made a call that Greene could not refuse, at about 3:30 a.m., it was time to end the protest.
“By that point, some people had been out there 11, 12 hours,” Greene said. “I was trying to get comfortable, and just couldn’t. I needed to sleep. And my attitude was, if I couldn’t go on, they shouldn’t have to, either.”
With no social media presence on either Facebook or Twitter, Greene wasn’t able to watch the digital response to his protest, which took on a life of its own with the #WhyIKneel hashtag.
Greene’s protest drew national attention. What he hopes, now that it’s over, is that it helps start a true dialogue.
“I want people to talk deeply about the issues. People need to sit down and have real conversations,” Greene said. “I don’t really count hashtags or Facebook in that. People need to look each other in the face and talk.”
In a letter to UMich President Mark Schlissel (below), Greene said he is protesting “because [he] wants [UMich] and this country to acknowledge a fact [he] knows to be true. We are not and have never lived by the idea of our founding that ALL men are created equal.”
Greene’s letter proves yet again that, despite claims, such activism is not about “starting a conversation.” It is about lecturing others. UMich must accept Greene’s claims because he knows they’re true? That’s sparking a dialogue?
Here’s a conversation starter for you, Mr. Greene: How do you propose the university police each and every individual student in order to thwart (possible) hateful acts? (See here, for example.) Understand, too, it is rather difficult for many to consider instances such as this as “oppressive,” or “anti-whatever.”
As the Cornell Interfraternity Council president recently said, “Horrible people are always going to do horrible things.” A racist message left on a student’s door or on an Instagram page does not signify that an entire community is seething with racial/ethnic animus. Not to mention, if campuses were such hotbeds of intolerance, then surely there would be zero need to engage in this sort of stuff.