Finding My Place in Red Square

I remember reading about the events at The University of Missouri a few days ago. I knew they had made national news, but the issues did not pique my interest until the waves made in Missouri began to leak onto the Georgetown campus. It was around 2:30 a.m. and I was walking back to my apartment when I saw a group of students outside the Intracultural Center. They had traced the outline of the phrase “Black Students of GU, Your Allies Stand With You” above their heads in chalk. I had a midterm paper due that morning and one half of a brain that felt like it didn’t want to work. But part of me knew the right thing to do would be to stop and offer my help. The other part made me take a step back — was this cause worth my time? Was it even my place to take a stand? I believe every person on this campus, whether consciously or subconsciously, faced a similar decision. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized why mine was to offer my help at 2:30 a.m. to help write “Black Students of GU, Your Allies Stand With You.”

I am a minority. I am a woman with brown skin, I wear a hijab and both of my parents are first-generation immigrants who have been told multiple times to “return to their country.” I know what it feels like to be the victim of racism. I know the anger that boils in your chest when your successes are marginalized and your failures are highlighted. I know the feeling of exhaustion and uncertainty that comes with having to prove your self-worth. But if I claimed to know the exact struggle of the Black citizens of the United States, I would be wrong.

I do not know what it feels like to have to walk on a cobblestone path that you know was made possible through the blood and sweat of your own people. I do not know what it takes to walk into a building every day that celebrates a man who sold hundreds of my own people into slavery and stripped them of their honor and identity. I do not know if I would have the strength to wake up every day knowing that the country I live in and the people I work with kill my children for “looking like criminals” and then walk free.

Perhaps because of this, I went to the demonstration the next day and to the sit-in the next. To me, it wasn’t about identifying with the struggle or only feeling the need to change the name of a building — however meaningful that is. It was about having the power to identify a valid reason for change and questioning those who purposely turn a blind eye to its existence. It was about beginning somewhere — whether that was with the president of a university or with the change of a name. I am not black and I was not even a Georgetown student until this semester. I realized at the demonstration, though, that I should not have questioned my place in this movement. I stood was exactly where I should have been — next to my brothers and sisters who deserved what they were asking for.

At the sit-in, as the administration staff weaved in between our legs and stepped over our laptops with irritated expressions, I realized you don’t have time for something like this — you make time for something like this. Because you cannot claim to struggle for a cause until you sacrifice your own flow to disrupt the comfort of others. Because in the end, whether you are a minority or a majority, whether you do or do not identify with the struggle of the black students of Georgetown and elsewhere, you have to make a decision: Will you help or will you walk away?
And in a country where the top 1 percent controls the remaining 99 percent, in a world where power is determined by status and status by power, I hope you decide to take that chalk at 2:30 a.m. and help finish what your brothers and sisters started.


Naaz Modan is a sophomore in the College. She is a photographer for the Hoya.

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