My protests need a purpose

This morning I saw an announcement placed by the NAACP concerning a symbolic bus “boycott” in The Northern Star. I wondered why they scheduled the “boycott” on Veterans’ Day. I thought that it would be nice if someone chose to honor Black Veterans on this day, and I thought the anniversary of the Montgomery boycott would have been a nice date for this gesture.

Furthermore, I couldn’t figure out why the NAACP chose to use the word “boycott” in their announcement. A real boycott protests unjust actions, and it hurts businesses that are not fair to a specific group. It is not used for remembrance. I felt that using the word “boycott” as a symbolic gesture made a mockery of famous protests and boycotts. I feel the same way when student organizations hold “slave auctions” to raise money.

The NAACP wasn’t “boycotting” anything because we already paid the bill to ride the bus with our student fees. I paid my fee, Huskie Lines has never made me sit in the back of the bus, and I think it should be my choice whether or not to ride the bus. Furthermore, I don’t participate in symbolic actions that I feel have no purpose.

I was, however, planning to walk the mile it takes to get to my car, but I noticed that I still had time to catch the bus. I was chatting with my cousin and and a former student of mine, when Mr. Marcus Lee, NAACP president, walked up to us with a flier about the boycott.

I told him to take the flier back because I was not participating. Then he accused me of not being willing to participate in the “struggle.” I told him that he didn’t know a damn thing about what I did in the “struggle,” and he went on his way.

But, since he didn’t stick around for me to tell him what I did for the struggle of black people, and since he chose to front me off in public about my character, I thought I should give him a dose of his own medicine. This is just a little history lesson for Mr. Lee.

I have never bragged about my student involvement at Northern, but I have never been ashamed of anything I did to help black students on campus. I never really held my work in high regard because too many people have died in meaningful struggles for civil rights. I do not dare compare anything I’ve done to their struggle, but at the same time, I know I’ve gone through a struggle all my own.

You see Mr. Lee, I was president of the Black Student Union and a Student Association Senator when Northern’s chapter of the NAACP was inactive, and I probably held these offices before you came to NIU. If you were here, and if you read the Star, you would not have questioned my struggle.

Tell me, Mr. Lee have you ever gotten a call in the middle of the night and the voice on the other end says, “You jigaboo, nigger! We want your black ass out of town before tomorrow night!” when you defended a black motorist that was assaulted by five white males? Have you ever confronted an entire white fraternity when they performed a black-face skit that insulted many of the students on this campus? Have you, Mr. Lee, organized a tent city to protest tuition hikes that could force many black students out of this school? I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, nor do I need their praise. I am far from martyrdom. But, Mr. Lee, if you think I turned my back on you today, be prepared for several other letdowns, especially the ones from your own people. I

experienced it firsthand.

I don’t really give a rat’s ass if people know what I did. When I did things for others, I was not looking looking for fame. What I do look for, however, is that people not judge me for what I choose to do in my struggle today.

Just because I don’t follow the lead of others doesn’t make me a sellout. I will participate in protests that have a purpose, and I will follow through with them when others are scared they can’t make bail. But I will also work to show others what black people can do with a good mind and a strong spirit. I devote my time to black students. I devoted all of my academic papers to works by and about black people. I work to teach all students about the contributions of my people. When I have children, I will strive to make them aware of the beauty of being black. These are the greatest contributions that I can give.

What I am saying to you, Mr. Lee, and to others that try to judge people and their actions, is that you should not be worried about my commitment to your “struggle” when you have no idea what I’ve done. Don’t worry if I don’t march to the same drummer you do. You should just be satisfied that you did a good job, and press on. In a few weeks I will receive a masters degree in English, and I can truly say, “I got mine.” I got mine by showing people, who doubted my intelligence because of the color of my skin, that my mind could compete with the best of them. Along the way I raised all of the HELL I possibly could, but I never went about it aimlessly. I always had a purpose.

Tracy Deis-Doris

Graduate Student

English Department