Letter to the community: On care and struggle

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Content warning: racism, police brutality

Dear Stanford Community:

I’m stepping out of my role with the ASSU because I can’t write an official statement. There are only so many times I can present you with resources before people begin skipping over them. There are only so many times I can write “We stand in solidarity” before it starts looking less meaningful. So right now, I’m not the ASSU Director of Communications. I’m just Cricket, writing to my Stanford family.

Two weeks ago, I woke up to the news of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by a police officer while walking toward his van, where his children were sitting. The police officers nearby had supposedly seen him holding a knife, but the Wisconsin Department of Justice hasn’t said whether this was true. Blake managed to get up after the officers used a stun gun on him. While he was walking toward his van, an officer grabbed the back of his shirt and shot him. Seven times. There was no weapon in the van. Fortunately, Blake is alive, though he may be permanently paralyzed.

If the officer was close enough to grab the back of Blake’s shirt, why didn’t they tackle him? If for some reason the first shot was necessary, why did the officer feel it was acceptable to fire six more times? Why hasn’t the officer been arrested yet, and why haven’t the other officers been fired? This was almost certainly an act of racism, and was definitely another instance of police brutality. At the time of my writing this, there had been no acknowledgement by the White House, which was hesitant (at best) to acknowledge the severity of COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura. But this is wrong, regardless of politics. Racism is wrong, but it’s still prevalent. Police brutality is wrong, but it’s becoming increasingly rampant. 

On reading this news, I cried for a while. I’ve tried drafting something several times, but I failed to come up with something adequate. I still don’t know what to say. Can I write something that resonates with everyone? Can I write something capturing my feelings? Probably not. I’ll settle with this:

We talk about how victims’ relatives are impacted. We talk about how victims were/are related to people who are undeservingly traumatized. Blake’s children had to watch as he was shot. He and his family have to battle with the legal system in order for justice to be served. But as his sister reminds us, we forget to talk about how every victim of racism and police brutality is human.

We’re all human. And yet we still haven’t overcome racism and discrimination. Racism and police brutality are affronts to Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in that they violate that common humanity. I would do everything I could to prevent my relatives from being subjected to this treatment, and I’m sure most people feel similarly. 

I feel broken. I’m shocked that officers could subject anyone to this kind of treatment, where the intended consequence was clearly murder. I feel compassion for Blake, his immediate relatives, and anyone who has been subjected to discrimination. I feel horrified that the White House finds crimes like this acceptable enough to not require acknowledgement — at this point, lack of action on their part is synonymous with endorsement of the continuation of police brutality. And this truth is one that I’ve been aware of for a long time. It’s one that activists and revolutionaries have been fighting to change since before this country’s inception. The events of this year have proven that this vision of common humanity is anything but universal, and the road to attaining it is long and winding.

So what can we do? Take some time off work and school. Remember that it’s okay to feel sad, frustrated and angry, depressed, afraid, or anything else you’re feeling. It’s good that we still have the capacity to feel. Talk to some people who aren’t nearby. After interviewing someone virtually for a podcast, I got really emotional. When we’re isolated like this, we often forget how necessary companionship is in order to stay healthy. So have some conversations with no purpose other than talking and listening. When fall quarter begins, remember that it’s okay to take classes satisfactory/no credit — I know I will be. Grades are far less important than taking care of yourself, and grad schools unwilling to accept that aren’t worth attending. Faculty need to remember that adjustments to assignments or grading policies may be a good idea. If extraordinarily horrible events like this continue, flexibility is a sign of respect and caring for students. Often, learning at an institution like Stanford is less academic, and more about recognition and acceptance of one’s limits. We often convince ourselves that we need to do everything — from clubs to research to classes. At an institution like Stanford, there’s a pressure to take advantage of every opportunity available to us, and we often don’t know how to say no. But this current moment is not normal, and it makes no sense to operate as such. This fight will be long and arduous, and care is as important as advocacy — care for loved ones, care for your communities, care for yourself. 

When elections are here, anyone eligible to vote should vote for the candidates they feel will promote positive change. Regardless of political beliefs, it’s time for police brutality to stop. It’s time for racism and discrimination to end. It’s time for people to recognize that everyone is human, and should be treated accordingly. But that battle for that common humanity as a long one, and it’s important to take care of yourself too. 

Love,

Cricket X. Bidleman, ’21

Contact Cricket X. Bidleman at bidleman ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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