Institutions within the University present their solutions to the past months of turmoil.
Due to the racially motivated riots of the past several months that seriously impacted communities across the country, many institutions at Notre Dame, including the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, the Kroc Institute at the Keough School of Global Affairs, and the Notre Dame football program, are trying to discover the extent to which Notre Dame is responsible for making a change.
The contributions by the Center for Ethics and Culture were reported in the previous issue of the Rover in an article that discusses the Racism is a Life Issue panel, which the Center hosted in late July this year.
Asher Kaufman, professor of history and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, wrote an article for the Kroc Institute around the time the riots began this spring. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., writing that “riots do not develop out of thin air” and then continued: “riots, although destructive and counterproductive, have erupted on the fertile ground of racial violence and discrimination against African Americans.” He called for the Notre Dame community to “give voice to the unheard so that race, gender and class dynamics of violence and injustice are integrated into our curricula and become mobilizers for constructive change.”
The Kroc Institute followed up this call to action with, among other things, an August 20 event which hosted Dr. Beverly Tatum and Dr. David Hooker to speak about race and higher education. Dr. Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race, sought to explain the source of racial injustice in the world, particularly in higher education institutions. During the event, she lamented the Supreme Court decision Milliken v. Bradley, which put an end to the bussing of suburban white families to inner-city, majority black schools in Detroit. She said that this practice was established in an effort to achieve “racial balance.”
Dr. Tatum insisted that the issue of racism in this country stems from a lack of interaction between whites and blacks. Taking the recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin as an example, she theorized, “Let’s imagine that [Derek Chauvin and George Floyd] could have been friends, they could have gone to the same school, been in the same classrooms, maybe played on the same sports team and developed a friendship… let’s imagine that had happened … would Derek still have murdered George? Probably not. Would someone else have murdered George? George is still not out of the woods.” Dr. Tatum sought to show that “communities must come together, primarily in the education system.” If we can come together in the education system, “there are more likely to be decision makers who can say ‘that [racial injustice] is wrong – I grew up with people who were different from myself – I know that assuming a group of individuals are dangerous just because they are different from me is wrong.’”
Dr. Tatum’s statements argued that diverse sports teams and educational institutions are two of the keys to eliminating racial injustice. Thus the Notre Dame football team has also lent its voice to the issue. A late August post by @ndfootball, the official Instagram page of the team, shows a masked man in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt raising his fist with the caption, “Keep the conversation going.” This inspired nearly 3,000 comments, with some in strong support of the post, and others vehemently against it. This picture was then displayed on the jumbotron during the football season opener against Duke on September 12, along with several other displays of the BLM logo.
The subject of the original post’s comments ranged from thanking the university and the football program to citing Patrisse Cullors’ admission that she and another leader of the organization Black Lives Matter are “trained Marxists” and claiming that they are inciting violence. Many complained that the post was getting sports mixed up in politics. In their manifesto, Black Lives Matter calls for a very specific political agenda, aiming to “dismantle cisgender priviledge” and “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” These particular agenda items are at odds with the values of a Catholic university.
As part of Notre Dame’s commitment to end racial injustice, author Dr. Tatum advocated for sports as a way to unite people behind a common goal and schools as a way to maintain a free exchange of ideas. The Notre Dame football program advocated for an end to racism by promoting the Black Lives Matter organization.
In response to the call for racial justice, the dCEC, Kroc Institute, and Notre Dame football program have vocalized their commitment to continuing the conversation—a conversation that will, hopefully, benefit the common good of the Notre Dame community.
Joe DeReuil is a freshman from St. Paul, Minnesota majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and political science. When he is not searching for a lake to shovel the snow off of so that he can play pond hockey like he does back home, he is probably reading Dostoyevsky on the front porch of Sorin College. If he is not found there, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org