After Charlottesville Lehman Students Want an End to Racist Violence

By Zayna Palmer

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following racist violence at a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville Va. that led to the killing of one protestor, Lehman students feel endangered by this event because they do not feel safe. Students are terrified for their future and they do not know what to expect. They want to see these threats addressed here in the Bronx as well, where two Confederate statues have long been part of the Bronx Community College Hall of Fame for Great Americans. These Confederate statues are being permanently removed after a protest of CUNY students.

The Charlottesville killing happened on August 12, 2017, the day after a march in which white nationalists protested the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, rammed his car into anti-racist protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others who were protesting one of the largest white supremacist gatherings in U.S. history. Thirty-five people were injured during this event, and at least three men arrested.

“Embracing differences includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcomed, and valued.”

– BCC President Thomas A. Isekenegbe

For Sharon Lee, a junior and English major at Lehman, the news was a wake-up call that domestic terrorism is on the rise. At first she was terrified, and she remains certain it was a hate crime based on racism. “As a college student, I am worried about the future and there are many problems that need resolutions before it’s too late,” she said.

Marisol Cotrgy, a Lehman senior and English major, also believes that racism remains an urgent national problem that demands a solution. “Racism isn’t over, there’s always been racism all over the country,” she said. “A way to stop terrorism and hate crimes is to call our congressmen to tell them that they have to fix this. Everyone can make a difference and it is from us who has the power to do so.”

Olivia Thompson, a junior and marketing major, felt “disgusted” when she saw the videos of the Charlottesville attacks, which she viewed as both terrorism and a hate crime, and more vulnerable to racist violence.

Thompson also believes that Donald Trump did not take immediate enough action after hearing about the attacks, since his first response was a Tweet. She thinks that we are reliving similar experiences to those that occurred when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive. “After he passed away, nothing has changed, generation after generation, our society has gotten worse. I am very disturbed about the community that I live in today because white supremacy is now being supported and as an African-American female, I do not feel safe when I am outside.” Thompson views Trump as untrustworthy because he doesn’t take immediate action in office and there are no improvements.

Closer to home, many CUNY students have protested the inclusion of two Confederate statues, the busts of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, at Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. On Aug. 17, 2017 Thomas A. Isekenegbe, president of BCC stated, “Embracing differences includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcomed, and valued. To that end, we will be removing and replacing these statues.”

Susan Powell, a graduate student at BCC, agreed that “these busts need to be taken down.” She added that, “It isn’t right to celebrate Confederate war criminals. As a nation, we must all come together as one because we are all created equal. We should also have leaders who brought change against racism and slavery in the hall of fame because it will generate positivity into the community.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio also believes that these men do not deserve a spotlight because there are many other great Americans, and these two Confederates do not belong in the hall.

Blogger Megan Brewer, from the Bronx, agreed that these statues should not stay in the Bronx but rather in museums, because “it is a more appropriate place for these historical figures.”

Another blogger, Frank Morales, also from the Bronx, concurred. “They can also be quite offensive because of what these men represent. They both committed treason against the United States to keep slavery alive.” Both Megan and Frank’s statements matter because they are both entitled to their own opinions and they are given equal rights as a citizen in the United States. They both agree that these men should be removed from the hall of fame because of what they represent in this society.