Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 26, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsActivism 101

The Importance of Listening to Others

Over the past few weeks, there have been intense exchanges happening between Public Safety and Ithaca College RAs. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you read up about it immediately because an important conversation is happening on our campus right now. Please click here and here to find out more because it will give you some background information that will help you understand the rest of this post a little better.

First of all, I want to preface this post by saying that, as a white woman, my voice should not be the main mouthpiece for this story and that its intent is to uplift the voices of the students and RAs of color who are calling out racial biases and injustices on this campus.

This is a blog all about activism, and given the recent events and the protest the RAs held on September 2nd, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t write anything about it at all.

I want to highlight a few key things about the RAs activism and what was so effective about it:

  • They collaborated and organized together.
  • They were strategic about bringing what they needed to say to the attention of the right people. They put signs in the faces of those who needed to hear their concerns and who could do something about them.
  • The protest received media attention. Photos and statuses were posted on social media. It was front page of The Ithacan (as it should be). Because of this, the word spread. Students started sharing their own similar experiences and more people became aware of the fact that there are serious problems on this campus that need to be addressed. If students continue to be aware and continue to push for what they deserve, the more likely it will be that we will see more and more changes made.
  • The students received a very public response from President Rochan. Their efforts resulted in something, even if there is still much more work to do.

There are many more things that I could highlight, but once again I urge you to read the story for yourself because there’s something else I think we need to talk about:

We need to listen to those who have different experiences than us.

We have to listen to those who have to think about things that we never do.

We need to listen to those who have less power and privilege than us.

Yes, I’m going to leave all that in bold. Because it’s necessary. If you’re going to be an activist or involved in such a conversation (or even a decent person), you have to stop and really tune into what is happening around you. For example, let’s say you identify as a feminist and you’re a white, straight, middle class woman, you can’t just talk about the issues that only impact you. That’s not effective.

It’s not possible to make real change if you’re don’t step back and listen. For example, in some of the exchanges between RAs and public safety, white RAs talked about how they felt comfortable calling Public Safety and that they should put themselves in the officers’ shoes. It doesn’t work to only see things from your own point of view. When it comes to a situation like this, it’s time to be quiet and listen to what other people are telling you about the injustices and obstacles that they have to navigate through every single day.

I’ll say it again: listen.

Furthermore, it’s important to look at the big picture to see why people are organizing for change. What’s happening at Ithaca College might, to some people, seem like a few incidents happening on a college campus, but it’s critical to remember that these issues also play out systematically on a larger scale.

It doesn’t matter if you’re advocating for gender equality, LGBTQ+ liberation, disability rights, racial justice, etc., you have to do your research and look at the issue on a larger scale when getting involved.

I’m going to continue to highlight what others are doing on this blog. I’m going to keep listening to what others, whose voices are often ignored, are saying. I hope you will to.


All the best,