President of Black Student Union Reflects on the Importance of Social Justice
Ariana Eastwood ’23 was part of the recent Black Lives Matter flag raising that kicked off the University’s celebration of Black History Month. A leader in the University’s Black Student Union, she discusses the importance of social change and the important role we can all play in fostering the progress we want to see.
February 9, 2023
By Ariana Eastwood ’23
As a Black woman majoring in forensic science, I face the harsh reality of pursuing a career within the criminal justice system. Interestingly enough, a year ago, I discussed how the system consists of discrimination, racism, and oppression for historically marginalized groups. This is indeed still an issue, but it’s more difficult to fathom these issues when people who should be fighting together are oftentimes against one another.
I believe the repercussions thus far for the five Memphis police officers who recently killed Tyre Nichols were correctly implemented. However, consider this: If the five men were another race and/or ethnicity, would their termination have been delayed? Unfair actions such as this make it difficult for people like me to pursue careers in the field of law enforcement because of criminal justice-related incidents that have become tragic and thus broadcast on the news.
This forces me to ask these questions: How many people have to die for law enforcement to change their policies? How many men, women, and children must see the corrupting and diminishing criminal justice system stand while marginalized groups continue to remain oppressed? What can we do as a student body to bring awareness to these current and prevalent racial issues?
‘We all can be a part of the change’
As a leader in the Black Student Union, I have an opportunity to have engaging, enlightening, yet uncomfortable conversations concerning these issues. In 1973, immediately after the civil rights movement, BSU was founded at the University. During this era, there were numerous acts of violence across this nation. Thus, the BSU founders established a recognized student organization on this campus.
I applaud the founders for creating a forum for faculty, staff, and students to have open discussions about a variety of crucial issues. This has made it possible to have dialogues about what's occurring, not only in our country, but, also, on campus. Earlier this month, for the second time in the University’s history, we raised a Black Lives Matter Flag on campus. What a great way to kick off BSU’s 50th anniversary.
The raising of this flag is the start, but it cannot and should not be the end of the University’s call for social justice. We cannot leave the responsibility of planning, organizing, and implementing race-related programs solely on the student body. It is imperative for the University’s departments, faculty, and staff to help lead and assist students in discussing these pivotal topics. Ultimately, it requires a collective effort in bringing awareness.
As a minority student at a predominantly white institution, I believe it is essential that we all recognize that our lives matter here. I am honored to be a part of change. We all can be a part of the change that we want to see.
Ariana Eastwood ’23, a forensic science major, is president of the University’s Black Student Union.