This past Saturday, Jan. 20, thousands of people in dozens of cities across the country marched in the second Women’s March in support of women’s rights, raising awareness on issues of racial and social inequality as well as to encourage participation in the democratic process of American elections. Just over a year ago, people crowded the streets the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump in protest and as a rallying cry for progress and love.
Over the past year, moments of destruction caused by the administration have consistently been met with outrage, but most importantly, have encouraged action that inspires hope. When Trump’s administration launched the first iteration of the travel ban targeting Muslims, thousands of lawyers around the country flocked to the affected airports to provide free consultation and services for the targeted individuals. When Trump refused to condemn the white supremacy and bigotry at the protests in Charlottesville, dozens of CEOs left his business’ advisory boards and thousands of dutiful citizens marched together in the streets of America’s cities to oppose the horrors of white supremacy and bigotry. When Trump called a black athlete who knelt during the national anthem to protest the oppression of people of color a “son of a bitch,” hundreds of players came together to protest his comments the very next weekend.
Time and again, when the agenda of hatred was promoted by the current administration, the American people responded with force, rising to fight these ideas with love and acceptance. This admirable and necessary quality of resilience must carry on as the country continues to struggle in the fight between love and hate. However, this dedication was not seen this past week when the Knox community stayed largely silent and dormant instead of rising to action in support of the values that the Women’s Marches represent.
Last year, 53 Knox students traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March with many others traveling to Chicago and Springfield. Many of those who did not travel to other cities still found a way to be involved and supportive, as they joined the march through Galesburg to stand in solidarity with women across the country. Around 500 people, community members and Knox students alike, marched through the Galesburg streets holding signs and chanting.
This year, only four Knox students travelled to Springfield to join the protests there, while it was clear to anyone at the Galesburg march that fewer than 100 individuals attended—the vast majority being community members of Galesburg, not Knox students.
Why, after all of the passion and activism that was shown in 2017, were Knox students reluctant to show the same support in 2018?
Last year, plans were being made weeks ahead of time to arrange travel plans for students to attend the different Women’s Marches. In stark contrast, students did not organize the same energized movement to encourage political and social participation by the students this year. While we pride ourselves on being engaged and involved in important issues, especially ones related to social justice, the Knox community—both faculty and students—must recommit to these values of inclusion, acceptance, mutual respect and a strong dedication to equality and fairness. While we are deeply disappointed that such a small contingency of Knox students deemed the Galesburg Women’s March worthy of an hour of their time on a Saturday morning, we trust that the Knox community will respond in the spirit of love and support that has defined this past year. Instead of responding to hatred and bigotry with apathy, we urge the Knox community to energetically and consistently come to the defense of the vulnerable in this community, country and world, pursuing a culture of peace and respect for all others.