The University of Alabama likes to send emails.
You know those mugs your mom buys on Etsy or Amazon that say, “This meeting could have been an email?” Those mugs are devoid of meaning in the Rose Administration Building, where everything requires precisely one email’s worth of acknowledgement and minimal follow-up.
We got an email about March Madness. An email about severe weather. An email about racism.
Last summer, when a police officer killed George Floyd in broad daylight, his knee pressed lethally into the neck of a guy trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, we got an email.
And last week, when a white man in Atlanta murdered eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, we got an email. This one, though, UA President Stuart Bell didn’t even bother to sign.
Words are good. Actually, you know what? You’re reading a newspaper, so you get it: Words are great. But when there’s no action behind them, they lose all meaning. They become worthless. Sometimes they become lies. Inaction from the UA administration is worse than silence. Empty statements feed complacency and undermine the efforts of those fighting for change within our community.
Some of the most influential students on our campus have become loud, proud advocates for change. Who brings more money into this school than students like Najee Harris or Mac Jones, who both marched for Black lives in August? Surely, if anyone could convince the higher-ups to listen, it would be the University’s athletes. But even their voices go largely unanswered.
We can’t totally ignore some of the steps the University has taken. UA System trustees voted to take names off of buildings, but again, the follow-through left something to be desired. Despite sending out a survey looking for worthy replacement namesakes, those buildings have yet to be rechristened as anything more original than “The English Building.”
And UA leadership isn’t the only institution that’s adverse to change.
House Bill 1 threatens the autonomy of transgender youth in Alabama. Governor Kay Ivey is greenlighting more prisons. Alabama has always marketed itself as the sweet home of tradition and wholesome hospitality. But it’s irresponsible to ignore the origins of that long history of tradition. And our pessimistic side wants to say that, well, this is just how it is. Alabama will never change. What’s the point of working for change when the people in charge are those like Gov. Ivey, state Senator Shay Shelnutt and whomever else is cooking up backwards legislation in Montgomery. It’s like trying to chisel titanium with a toothpick.
But that’s our pessimistic side. Our optimistic side says that light is coming. Our optimistic side says hope is alive. Student organizations like Alabama Students Against Prisons, UA Vote Everywhere and others have committed to fostering change right here—on our campus and in the greater state of Alabama.
The efforts from community members doesn’t stop on campus. Smaller organizations are fighting for big change on a local scale, which ultimately affects American politics. And LifeLink and West Alabama Works provide previously incarcerated individuals re-entering society with an opportunity to succeed though the system sets them up to fail. Even former Alabama football players are showing support through donations and foundations built to create change within their communities.
Don’t let the pessimistic side win. Change will come if we fight for it. So that’s what we have to do.