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#WeKnowWhatYouDid

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Written by Da’Shaun Harrison

 

I woke up on Wednesday morning, November 8th. It was around 8:30 am. Expecting it to be just another Wednesday, I checked my emails, then my texts, and then social media.

What I found when I scrolled through Twitter, however, was that this was not just another Wednesday. This was the day that someone, or several people, decided to do what most survivors often want to but opt-out of due to fear, lack of protection, antagonism from apologists, and a host of other reasons.

Student survivors from the Atlanta University Center (AUC)—which consists of Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University—plastered Morehouse and Spelman’s campuses with sheets of paper. On these sheets were the names of various assailants throughout the AUC and organizations they were affiliated with.

When I saw the first tweet, my heart sank. I was excited about the labor that survivors were putting in; labor that both institutions have proven they were unwilling to, and maybe even incapable of, committing to. However, though the action was both humbling and refreshing for me as a survivor, I also knew that Twitter would soon be set ablaze by the many assailants and their apologists who have also proved that they are unwilling to put in the labor to combat rape culture. I took several deep breaths, sent out various texts, and then I waited.

 

 

At 8:30, there were a few folks talking about the incident, but there was not yet too large of a conversation. 9:00 came and chatter had increased, but still nothing tremendously outrageous. By this time, I was reading tweets stating that Morehouse’s campus police had already begun to remove the sheets of paper. I thought, for a moment, that this protest would prove to be unsuccessful. And as an organizer, that reality was disappointing. I am always in full support of organizers who take such radical, bold, and strategic steps toward justice. However, as a survivor, I could not help but to feel a little excited. Thankful that I would not have to bear witness to the inundating ignorance of people who refuse to hold sexual abusers accountable for their actions.

 

Then 10:00 came.

 

Suddenly, a rush of tweets began to flood my Twitter timeline with more pictures of the white sheets of paper and the names of assailants typed onto them. Some names I knew and expected, others coming as a total surprise. And with these pictures came the commentary I originally expected. “How do we know these people are actually rapists?” some asked. “Are we sure we know what they did?” others asked. It was as if rape apologists rushed to Twitter in droves to make unapologetic claims about the survivors’ actions while not daring to condemn the men and women who were accused. Many of them even dressed their bigotry in the guise of solidarity with survivors.

 

#WeKnowWhatYouDid quickly became more than a hashtag, much like the origin of #BlackLivesMatter. This became a national campaign in a matter of hours. Tons of survivors took to Twitter to share their stories with names of their assailants, and Twitter pages, designed with the purpose of naming perpetrators, were created.

 

That day was spent having long, tough and painful discussions about rape culture and sexual assault. Survivors forced to argue the indispensability of our humanity. For hours, I was stuck deciding when choosing to be quiet to protect my sanity made me complicit in the silencing of my voice and when not being vocal aided in the erasure of my narrative.

 

I was finally able to laugh again at the end of the day. Barely, but I did. After hours of fighting through triggering responses to combat harmful beliefs about survivors, I was able to smile again.

 

Then Thursday came.

 

And with this new day came a second action. This time, a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, which stands at the front of Morehouse’s campus, had been spray painted with the message: “Practice what you preach Morehouse. End rape culture.” In yet another frenzy, Twitter users quickly tweeted out their thoughts on the action. Just as the majority focused on condemning the survivors and not the assailants the day before, many people focused on the vandalism of the chapel and not the reasoning behind it.

 

 

Almost as quickly as the vandalism was discovered, Morehouse’s campus police covered the work with a tarp. As many folks pointed out on Twitter, this was an emblematic gesture—be it intentional or otherwise—of how Morehouse, and HBCUs in general, respond to sexual violence. It depicts, almost comically, how swiftly those with the power and privilege to make real, structural change are committed to silencing survivors and covering up our stories. Fixated on damning those who have experienced trauma for the ways in which they choose to seek justice over condemning those who caused the trauma.

 

That very same Thursday morning at Crown Forum, which is a college-wide student assembly, the interim president of the college, Harold Martin Jr., addressed the students and the recent actions. Within this statement, he says: “This will be the last time anyone ever defaces the chapel on this campus.” A moment that could have been used to have a raw discussion about sexual violence with a room filled mostly by men was, instead, used as a moment to, yet again, focus on the property that had been painted over.

 

He used the word “deface,” which can translate to “damage” or “ruin,” to describe the spray painting of the chapel. And while it is true that students defaced property, it is also true that the Church has attempted to deface many survivors as it has been a place of deep-rooted violence towards queer folk and women. In a piece I recently wrote, I discussed my own experiences with sexual violence and the Church’s role. The Church—specifically, the Black Church—has long aided in the silencing of survivors and has been committed to molding and shaping assailants. Morehouse is an institution built on old baptist morals and ethics and has been a product of two institutions, Christianity, and the cisheteropatriarchy, with a dedication to protecting perpetrators. And what better place to attack that than the one place that represents both institutions on campus?

 

This forced me, and a lot of other survivors and advocates, to revisit and reintroduce the fact that though rape culture is prevalent throughout the rest of America—as patriarchy is not confined to Morehouse and Spelman’s campuses—HBCUs have a deeply painful history with and connection to sexual violence that cannot be ignored. A violence that is often silenced and, thus, exacerbated, by a belief that Black people must handle our intracommunal issues “in-house.” That, as a community, healing must come on the terms of the abuser(s) and at the expense of the survivor(s).

 

#WeKnowWhatYouDid acts as a catalyst to a much larger moment, not conversation, that requires us to daringly hold responsible the various men, women, and people who have violated others in unimaginable ways. The hashtag, the movement must push us to not be fixated on the tactics of survivors looking for justice, but on how we work to hold the perpetrators accountable while prioritizing the healing of the survivors.

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#MyWhitePrivilege Spotlights Further Racial Disparities

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#MyWhitePrivilege

Employing the hashtag #MyWhitePrivilege, Twitter users have shed light on the various ways they’ve survived interactions that frequently claim the lives of Black or brown people.

Everyone knows that the justice system unfairly prosecutes Black and brown people at a rate far harsher than their white counterparts. But the extent to which white people avoid experiencing the treatment people of color face in America is vast. One user described their experience growing up in a small town with no Black population:

“Growing up in a small town with no Black folks meant that the poor were often scapegoated. Anytime something happened or went missing, the cops were at our house looking for my brother. We survived all of those interactions though.”

As unsurprising as their experience was, they continued with details that truly highlight disparity in racial treatment with regard to the prison industrial complex. Not only did their brother evade prison, they received rehabilitation, therapy to deal with their traumas, and suffered no loss of education or employment opportunities. Throughout the thread of tweets, other users shared similar experiences with the law where despite their behavior or knowledge of their criminal history, they avoided punishment.

As Black Twitter users read the replies, some were struck with awe and others reflected on the struggles they faced. Many lamented over the difficult conversations they prepared to have with their children. The nearly 20K replies contain experiences with law enforcement through local authorities, TSA, Immigration officers, and even school police.

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Not On Our Watch! Howard Uni President Bans Campus Colonizers

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As a response to student reports of unauthorized use of The Yard, Howard University President, Wayne A.I. Frederick has released a statement demanding pet owners respect the campus.

An email sent to Howard University staff and students notified them of the President’s decision to mark the private institution’s grounds off limits. Calling the quad a “treasured site”, Frederick affirmed the community’s desire to keep the area “pristine and symbolic of all that Howard University represents.” Acknowledging the history of residents’ visitation to the campus, Frederick referenced the community relationship before making a formal decision.

“At the beginning of my presidency we held regular meetings that included students, faculty and members of the Advisory Neighborhood Committees to cultivate a town and gown relationship. I recently reached out to our local ANC and Councilwoman to engage in a dialogue. We recognize that service animals are a necessary aspect of modern-day life and we will accommodate them as needed. We appreciate pet owners respecting out campus by not bringing pets onto the private areas.”

Last week, reports of residents from gentrified surrounding areas mistreating the northwest Washington D.C. school made waves on social media. Insensitive comments regarding who was privileged to access the campus sparked public outrage among those who wanted to protect Howard’s 152-year legacy.

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Keep Walking, Colonizer! Howard University Students Say Neighbors are Disrespecting The Yard

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White people’s sense of entitlement knows no bounds and has now extended to the campus of famed HBCU, Howard University. The 152-year-old private educational institution located in D.C. has been misused by residents who believe The Yard should be accessible to them as a dog park or outdoor gym.

Students of Howard University have taken offense to colonizers and gentrifiers in northwest Washington D.C in recent years. As wealthy, White residents continue to flood areas surrounding the university, they take liberties they have neither earned nor deserve on the school grounds. Students say they “find it very disrespectful” and have noted a marked increase of such behavior throughout their attendance.

Where students would have seen one or two out-of-place dog walkers on campus in a week, they see two each day. Graduating senior, Briana Littlejohn, spoke with The DCist, about the residents’ use of the campus, stating, “You know this is a university. You know this is a historically Black university. And you feel so entitled that you’re just going to walk your dog there?” Many other attendees feel the same, but their outrage has recently been met with unreasonable alternatives by residents.

Speaking with Fox 5 correspondent, Tisha Lewis, Sean Grubbs-Robishaw who lives in the Bloomingdale neighborhood said the following:

“So, they’re in part of D.C. so they have to work within D.C. If they don’t want to be within D.C., then they can move the campus. I think we just need to work together and I don’t think it should be a he or there or here…It’s our community and that’s how it should be.”

Sean Grubbs-Robishaw,

Grubbs-Robishaw admits to using the grounds as a shortcut to get to the McMillan Reservoir, a popular spot for walking/running. But his argument conveniently glosses over the fact that Howard University is a private institution while also disregarding its status as a historically Black university.

The campus has been mistreated by those new to the area as a location for picnics and other abuses. The university has yet to directly state that such activities are prohibited by residents, Alonda Thomas, a spokesperson, has said there is no policy prohibiting dogs and that the campus is “open”, meaning anyone has access to it.

Do you think the disrespect that Howard University campus is receiving is related in any way to the #DontMuteDC protest? Do you think the campus should be closed to the public?

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