At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, Occidental’s Diversity and Equity Board (DEB), the Occidental Black Student Alliance (BSA), Oxy-AWARE, Los Compadres, Asian Pacific Americans for Liberation (APAL) and Occidental’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) hosted the third installment of the Showing Up for Black Lives panel series in Choi Auditorium. The installment centered on the evolving role of defensive violence in modern activism and packed the auditorium with over 150 students and community members. The panel included representatives from AF3IRM (the Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization and Marginalization), the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC), Redneck Revolt and autonomous organizers and artists within the Movement for Black Lives (MBL). The panelists focused on the ways in which students can stand up for black lives and the virtues of combatting systemic oppression with brute force.
The event began with a seven-minute clip of Malcolm X’s speech, “By Any Means Necessary,” which critiqued non-violence as an instrument of oppression itself. Panelist Jollene Levid, National Chair of AF3IRM, provided a personal testament to the faults of combatting oppression with non-violence.
“When I was 16 years old, in a domestic violence relationship, I survived by fighting back,” Levid said. “If I would have rolled over, he probably would have choked me to death.”
Edxie Betts and other panelists echoed the necessity of force in the face of the systemic state-sanctioned violence that pervades our prisons, courts and police forces.
“Why are we being told to be passive in the face of genocide?” Betts said.
According to Lydia Savage, a representative from Redneck Revolt’s Los Angeles chapter, Redneck Revolt’s method of fighting for racial equality is confrontational.
“[We aim] to meet white supremacy where it lives: in the militia movement, at gun shows, at Republican events and in spaces where those individuals feel uninhibited and free to espouse their hateful ideologies,” Savage said.
In those spaces, Redneck Revolt shows up with the understanding they will not be met with dialogue.
“The [fascists] are not looking to have a conversation. They are looking to assert their dominance over you,” Savage said. “In World War II, we did not have negotiations and dialogue with the Nazis. At a certain point, you have to meet force with force. And that is how you continue to live.”
The panel had a marked absence of white cisgender heterosexual men, according to event organizer Professor Amy Tahani. Each member of the panel represented an identity that experiences marginalization in American society and around the world. According to Bethany Widen (first year), who attended the event, the diversity of the panel sent a powerful message.
“The intersectionality and variety of identities and opinions that were presented to us was inspiring,” Widen said. “I was also empowered by the closing statements of the panelists and the focus on student activism, that there are places where students can be valuable and powerful forces.”
Panelists encouraged the students in the audience to get involved in anti-racist work in their communities by joining existing activist organizations or creating their own. Betts brought up the point that many institutions of higher learning are heavily invested in systems of oppression such as the prison industrial complex, or the overlapping interests of government and industry in the criminal justice system. Betts called on Occidental students to hold the college accountable and argued that as members of an elite institution, Occidental students are in a unique position of power.
“Students [should] urge the school to contribute at least some of the thousands of dollars you pay to attend this school to communities without the same amount of resources,” Betts said.
In her closing statement, community activist Keyanna Celina presented students with an opportunity to convert ideology into tangible action. On Tuesday, Oct. 31, Milo Yiannopoulos will be speaking at California State University, Fullerton. Keyanna is organizing a group of activists to attend and protest on the CSU campus and encouraged students to contact her on Twitter for more information.
Panelists emphasized the value and importance of student activism. Levid and Margari Aziza Hill, the Muslim anti-racism collaborative programming director, implored students to use their privilege in spaces of activism.
“Throughout history, students have been at the center of every major revolution,” Levid said. “No matter how small your campus is, you have access to capital that other people don’t. Now, what are you going to do with it?”