Fordham’s Responsibility to Apply Privilege Towards Progress


On May 25, 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd was killed in an act of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The smartphone footage of the tragedy has sparked rage and sadness across the country. 

The Fordham Ram condemns the senseless violence exhibited toward Floyd. The systemic underpinnings of police brutality against black people in the United States are pervasive, disturbing and indefensible. 

As a primarily white institution, Fordham University has a responsibility to educate the entire student body on systemic issues of racism, white privilege and oppression that plague our country. Incidents of racial bias have occurred at Fordham and other primarily white institutions in recent years; it is imperative that the universities respond swiftly in taking action against the offenders and developing more resources for students of color who struggle in the face of discrimination and racism from other members of the university community. 

Using one’s privilege to take an antiracist stance is a powerful way to combat a system that has been built on the oppression of black people. No matter how uncomfortable it may feel to speak up, there is no level of discomfort that can come close to the devastation black men and women feel when they read the news to find another unarmed black person has been senselessly murdered by those who are supposed to protect us. Any conversation worth having should be uncomfortable — and we should not be comfortable with these acts of violence. 

We must note that non-black students using their privilege to bring light to this issue should not attempt to speak over black voices. Instead, they should attempt to bring attention to the systemic flaws in our country about race, point others to important resources and listen.

Though promoting awareness is an important first step, one must take more tangible actions to enact meaningful change. Being an ally as a non-black person requires much more than tagging your friends in an Instagram story or retweeting an activist. As hashtags and social media trends continue to promote the movement towards justice for George Floyd, the Ram wants to remind everyone to put your posts into action. 

If you have the financial capability, consider making a donation. Floyd’s family has started a GoFundMe to cover funeral and burial costs. The Minnesota Freedom Fund, Bronx Freedom Fund and the Brooklyn Bail Fund aim to pay bail for those who cannot afford it and continue to post bond for those arrested during protests against police brutality. We encourage you to seek out freedom funds in your local community to donate to as well. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund combats racial injustice through advocacy, litigation and education. 

Take political action by calling your local representatives to urge legislative reform combating racial biases in the justice system. Stay informed, take note of the local leaders who care about these issues and vote in your next election. 

Recent news headlines prior to the death of George Floyd indicate how ubiquitous white privilege is in our country. A confrontation in Central Park saw a white woman call the police on a black man for asking her to put a leash on her dog, believing the man to be “threatening.” These instances where white privilege is used to put black people at risk, by bringing police officers into a situation where it is unnecessary, have amplified the anger and pain at Floyd’s death. They illustrate that white people in America consistently use white privilege as a weapon in their own self-defense while leaving black Americans vulnerable to the injustices of the country’s legal system.

The current student body at Fordham has grown up witnessing tragedies of police brutality toward African Americans. We saw the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the protests in New York after the suffocation of 46-year-old Eric Garner. Both deaths were at the hands of police officers, none of whom were indicted on any charges. 

Just as it is not the responsibility of black Americans to teach white Americans not to be racist, it is not the responsibility of black students to educate their peers on why these issues are important. We encourage all non-black members of the Fordham community to take the time to educate themselves on these issues and become empathetic to the injustice facing the black community. The events of the past two decades prove that these issues have not subsided, and they continue to persist unless everyone makes the effort to stay informed and speak up. 

It is imperative that white students are aware of and acknowledge their privilege. It is through this privilege that they are able to stay silent and ignore racially-motivated acts of violence. Fordham’s Jesuit values espouse that we are men and women for others. Staying silent on these issues is doing the opposite. 

We implore white students in particular to take advantage of educational opportunities the Fordham community holds in order to understand how you contribute to or benefit from white supremacy. Attend a panel, hear from a speaker and, above all, listen. 

The history of the university includes troubling instances of gentrification that have illustrated New York’s racial divisions. The Rose Hill campus’s location in the Bronx consistently contributes to complicated racial dynamics. Fordham is a primarily white institution within a neighborhood with a largely non-white population. Students need to pay attention to the local community just outside of the campus gates and recognize that the issue of racism in our country affects this local community in a major way. 

The Fordham Ram wants to remind students to take pride in our local community and to respect our neighbors who provide for us while we are here. Every time we buy groceries from Cherry Valley or enjoy a dinner on Arthur Avenue, we are taking advantage of the resources the Bronx has given us. 

It is unacceptable to joke about or promote stereotypes about the Bronx. The border between our campus and the Bronx reflects the divide in our country across racial or social lines that result in two very different experiences of America. We encourage the Fordham community to learn from this moment and realize the importance of paying attention to systemic inequalities that underlie many problems facing the Bronx. 

We want to reiterate the message that Fordham students have a responsibility to get to know their local community. While some may feel sheltered inside our campus gates, there is no excuse for remaining ignorant of the concerns just outside them. Recognize that as a Fordham student, you cannot turn a blind eye to issues in the Belmont community. It serves you every day you spend on campus, and it is time to return the favor.

Pay attention to what is happening. We are seeing the paths of history being laid. Honor Fordham’s values of personal responsibility, respect and compassion. Fordham and every other primarily white institution have important responsibilities that are not always met. It is up to the community to make change happen. Fordham has the opportunity to apply its mission in a transformative way by taking meaningful action during these urgent times. 

The Fordham Ram encourages the university to expand resources for students of color, including resources to cope with racial trauma. We want to acknowledge that we do not have any black staff members on Volume 102 of the Ram, and we cannot speak to the personal experiences of the community as a result. We know our paper would be stronger with these voices, and we welcome them always.

It is a time for all of us to speak up and take action, and large-scale efforts by the university would go a long way to promote the message that we each have an immense responsibility at the moment. 

Honor the memory of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice and far too many more so that their lives are not lost in vain. 

If you are struggling with your mental health at this time, we encourage you to take advantage of some of the inclusive resources aimed at promoting the emotional well-being of black, indigenous and people of color: Inclusive Therapists, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, Decolonizing Therapy and The Loveland Foundation