The Black Lives Matter sign

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by Zack Downing, Staff Writer

On November 16, various on-campus students constructed a large message on the tunnel windows between the Liberal Arts building and the Campus Center.

Using hundreds of sticky notes, they spelled out “Black Lives Matter,” a message of solidarity in a tough year.

Unfortunately, the Black Lives Matter movement is a polarizing one, and not everyone was happy with the display. Overnight, some students took the sign and rearranged it to say “All Lives Matter,” the reciprocal of the movement.

That next morning students walked to class to see “All Lives Matter” plastered across the glass tunnel. Many were alarmed and upset, and no one knew the culprits.

Thanks to the passion of some of the students, the sign was restored by 11 a.m., and it let the campus know that they wouldn’t be discouraged.

However, the dispute was just beginning online. On the UMass Dartmouth Black Market Facebook page, a user posted about the sign, calling the people who changed it “cowards” and saying those behind Black Lives Matter wouldn’t back down.

It instantly became a whirlwind of insults and arguments, garnering over 200 comments by noon that day. Most were on the side of the movement, but some were opposing, taking the side of the people who changed the sign.

The display may have been quickly fixed, but the damage had been done as far as sending a hateful message.

Many minority students feared that the campus viewed them as enemies, and there was an uncomfortable aura around campus while the All Lives Matter sign was displayed.

Meanwhile, on Facebook the battle was only getting worse. One user said they were going to change the sign to say “White Lives Matter” at 4 p.m., and invited anyone to come along with him to do it. However, many students stood guard of the sign, and as a result the display stayed the way it was.

The sign was safe for the day, but it didn’t take long for people to start messing with it again. A couple nights later, someone took the word “Black” off the sign. Then, the V was removed after more repairs were made.

Sophomore psychology major Tess Maley noted, “It’s hard to believe that in 2016 there are still people working against racial equality.”

After those offenses, the students created a new sticky-notes sign on the other side of the glass that read, “BLM—JUSTICE OR ELSE.” That sign wasn’t well received by a lot of people, including some that were on their side to begin with. As a result, the students later took it down themselves.

During all this, arguments were still brewing on Facebook. The post got more attention than anything in the Black Market page, with over 400 reactions and 500 comments. Most people were on the side of the BLM movement, but there were still a few users who sided against them.

After all the commotion, the Dean of LARTS sent out an email that didn’t directly acknowledge the sign and the controversy surrounding its dismantling, but the message of acceptance made it clear that the email was in reaction to it.

Dialogue about the Black Lives Matter sign was inescapable following its tampering. Any student that knew what happened had their opinion.

Brendan Finegan, a sophomore English major, said, “Everyone, including the BLM movement, should have a voice, and the fact that their message was affected is disgraceful.”

The vast majority of the student body was behind the BLM movement, but it’s the silent few that still keep racial equality away from arm’s reach.

Upon returning from the Thanksgiving recess, the sign has stood resiliently in its orginal place. For the time being, the aggressor(s) have backed down, but the fact that the display was tampered with at all is a troubling reminder that race relations in America are still unpatched, and can have a rippling effect on UMass Dartmouth’s campus.

Across the nation, this year’s events have ignited hateful speech and action, and this instance is an example that UMass Dartmouth is not exempt from that.

We need to stand together as a campus and oppose the intolerance that still exists among our peers. If we can all be accepting of others, conflict like this will be a thing of the past.

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