Hodge: Why we stand in solidarity for Elijah Thomas

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s note: Some students who contributed did not wish to be identified, so the Collegian refrained from publishing last names.  All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

This Monday students of Colorado State University’s Black community stood in solidarity for Elijah Thomas, a resident assistant who found a fake noose hanging outside his hallway in Newsom Hall a few days before classes started. Frank was scheduled to address Thomas and other students of color regarding his administration’s response to the incident, which has been highly criticized.

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In preparation to the discussion, several leaders in the CSU Black community organized the demonstration to show support and to send a unified message. 

“We were the group of students at the lynching event, so we knew Elijah was going to be there at the talk. Our main purpose was to be there for Elijah,” said Jhasmne a predominate figure in the CSU black community.  Isiah Martin, also considered a community leader, agreed that while the demonstration was successful and served many purposes, the overreaching goal was being there for Elijah.

In his fall address, President Tony Frank introduced the notion of standing “shoulder- to-shoulder” with vulnerable members of our community.  The members of the Black community standing in lines dressed in all black, with some participants silent and unmoving for up to an hour an a half, reflects the pretense of Tony Frank’s statement. This was a visual representation of marginalized students–the Black community–standing shoulder-to-shoulder united by themselves.

“Elijah is a quintessential student,” said Michelle. “He is involved in student (organizations), he is an RA, he is a face know for participating in the campus community. Whoever did this does not see anything but a young Black man, a duality that students of color must deal with everyday. If we are supposedly a part of a greater campus community, we need to be seen as that by the entire campus body.” 

Bias-motivated incidents and tensions this semester prove that CSU is still not a socially inclusive environment. The topic of prejudice and race make many students uncomfortable. Many students on campus have the privilege of not having to think about these topics and like to believe we live in a “post-racist” society. This is a false connotation: a connotation used to hide the many microaggressions and incidents marginalized students have to endure, largely in silence, every day.  

“I stood because sitting is not an option. It is time for others to see that we are not just sitting around.  There are people in our community, more than what was even present doing this type of work each and everyday,” Jakya said.

While the demonstration was in large a show of support, many individuals voiced more personal motivations as to “why they stood.”  Jhaysmn said her  reason for standing is “because of the injustices that students of color have to face more often than not. Whether it’s through micro or macro aggressions, wrong is wrong. I stood because I pay $30,000 plus a year to be on this campus and I deserve to be seen and treated as if I matter.”

Another vocal leader in the Black community, Abriyana, emphasized that Black students are partially invisible in the larger CSU community. Our voices and perspective are often excluded. The demonstration was a way to call attention and to make our community visible to the school’s leadership.

“We need to recognize the work everyone has been putting in,” Abryana said. “We need to recognize the positivity and impact of the demonstration. It was a platform to also share our experiences on this campus and how they can improve these experiences for Black students.”

The predominately white CSU community is perceived as largely disinterested or unaware of the struggles of the marginalized communities and students on campus. The Newsom noose incident and other bias-motivated incidents were addressed in a campus-wide email, publicly covered by the Collegian, and topic of many conversations. Even so, a large portion of the student body are still unaware these issues are occurring.

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“In these spaces, we have to rely on each other to be strong,” Micaela said. Similar sentiments were echoed by many voices in the community that marginalized communities must look inward to find support—support the school and student body are overwhelmingly lacking.

Outside of my roots in the Black community I have many white friends and relationships, and can testify that after bringing up the incidents around campus, many are completely unaware that these biased and racist acts are occurring. Just last week, I had to inform my partner and close friends,  all white students who attend CSU, of the noose incident. The incident happened months ago. These are students with Black friends and relationships, who don’t even recognize the local incidents that are inflicting so much discord and pain on marginalized communities. This is the divide, this is where the students and issues are separated. Marginalized students have been suffering alone because they do not have the privilege to pretend these events aren’t happening.

“(The demonstration) was a way to show that we are here, we cannot be ignored, silenced or erased,” said Shannon, an active member in the Black community. “Our experiences are valid, our voices are valid, and we’ll go to whatever lengths to show that change is necessary and together we’ll do what we can to make it visible to the whole campus.”

Jayla Hodge can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @Jaylahodge.