A few of my dear friends and colleagues, having noticed my remarks, asked me why I was participating in the student demonstrations around the Ferguson, Mo., and New York City events.
They thought a faculty member, albeit an emeritus, shouldn’t become involved in such a student-centered controversy.
As an elder, they say, you have more appropriate means to contribute.
It reminded me of excuses people gave for not being involved in the early days of the civil rights movement.
But it did get me to thinking about why I was lying down in front of Old Main or in the library. Or why I was participating in the “die-in” in the HUB.
There were a few other older folks and faculty there, primarily showing their support by witnessing and holding protest signs. So what was I doing lying on the floor?
I was lying there because too many young people, particularly young black men, have lain on the ground slain by brutal acts of senseless violence; because grand juries in Missouri, New York, Florida, Illinois and dozens of other places have examined evidence and declared that when a police officer kills an unarmed black man they are rightly doing their job; that lives seem expendable when they are black, Hispanic, male and particularly when they are poor.
I lay there because 50 years ago local juries and grand juries did not find evidence or reason to convict the murderers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, the four little girls at Sunday school in Birmingham, Ala., Fred Hampton, Steve Biko, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman or Mickey Schwerner and hundreds of others.
I lay there because, as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “It is clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends, but it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”
I lay there because the arc of the universe does bend toward justice but needs the energy of righteous people to keep it moving; because it is not “I think therefore I am,” but “I am because we are,” Ubuntu; because my president said, “If I had sons these could be my sons shot dead”; because the president of my university stood in solidarity with his hands up, and I am proud to stand with him.
I lay there because I love these children and I want to help make a world where they and all children can be free of fear and terror and anger and want.
I lay where others have lain and marched, sat in, demonstrated, picketed, prayed, occupied, sang and died for these causes; because it is better to carry a sign for justice than a torch for anger or a gun for oppression.
I lay with them as a witness to their righteous struggle and a participant in our just cause.
And I will continue to lie here because black lives — all lives — matter. Ubuntu!