The Bastyr University community gathered to mourn and reflect on racial injustice in a December 1 vigil organized by students. Entitled “Black Lives Matter: A Community Vigil for Health and Social Justice,” the gathering brought together students, faculty and staff in an overflowing Kenmore campus classroom.
The vigil was a response to multiple acts of violence against people of color, including the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury recently decided not to charge his shooter, a police officer, with a crime.
“Social justice is inherently intertwined with health,” said organizer Shelagh Brown, BS (’12), a student in Bastyr’s Master of Science in Acupuncture program.
She helped organize the vigil along with the student-led Physicians for Social Responsibility chapter, the Bastyr Center for Social Justice and Diversity, and other students.
The vigil included a recital of names of African Americans who have been killed by law enforcement officers in recent years. It included time to reflect together on the grand jury decision, which happened just before the rush of the Thanksgiving holiday and the end of Bastyr’s fall quarter, a hectic time for many on campus.
It was also a time to examine how racism infiltrates institutions. Shelagh Brown read a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” about how apathy lets racism persist:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is … the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
After the reading, attendees split into small groups to discuss how the University can contribute to the undoing of racism. That work will continue through student groups and the Center for Social Justice and Diversity, which was founded this year to work for justice in health care.
Center co-director Daniel C. Rosen, PhD, a Bastyr professor in the Department of Counseling & Health Psychology, said the center will work both to promote justice within the University and to prepare graduates to work toward racial equity and social justice in their health careers.
“If we can’t live in community with one another in this nation, we can’t live in health,” Dr. Rosen said. “When people live in fear of persecution and violence, that’s not compatible with health.”
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