Oct 2, 2020 | By Sam Pfeifer | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Every time I write an Opinion article for The Catalyst, there is an internal tension at play in my mind. On the one hand, I want to adequately express my beliefs, which I believe fall in line with the majority of Colorado College students. On the other hand, I don’t want to simply play into the echo chamber that is the political discourse on our campus. In other words, I want to write something that adds nuance to the ways in which my peers view and think about the world, while not compromising my central beliefs. This week is no different, so bear with me.
Over the last Block Break, I was camping up near Gunnison with a lot of my close friends. Contrary to most other Block Breaks, where I find myself becoming more exhausted as the break unfolds, I found myself incredibly at peace and energized. At night, we spent a lot of time sitting in our camp chairs reflecting about our blocks and the current circumstances of the world: living during a pandemic, the constant reality checks of violent inequality, or the smoky haze in the sky as a vexing reminder of our planet’s saddening death sentence.
On the last night of our trip, a few of us found each other at odds over one particular conversation: the prospects of our nation’s future. Put another way, how do we go about seeking and establishing radical change in America? Or, what does change on its own — specifically, radical change — look like? One side of the conversation saw the answer in a complete desecration of the American system as we know it. Every part of what makes this country “exemplary” or “great,” from written documents to the different institutions, needs to be rebuilt, beyond radical reimagination.
The other side — the side I found myself on — saw the idea of destruction and rebuilding to be far-fetched and ambiguous. I advocated for more equitable values and shared a certain level of radical reimagination, while also seeing the prospects of change to be centrally founded in the systems already in place. Most of the debate seemed to be a perfect manifestation of many debates in America today, one in which two sides talk past one another. The other side saw my stance as perpetuating an incrementalistic understanding of change, an understanding of the world which I find problematic as well.
This conversation has been playing on repeat in my mind the past two week. Why do I hold the beliefs that I do? Do I see change manifesting within the confines of already built structures because of the privilege I hold in our world? Simply put, it is important to recognize that my faith in our world, our country, and all of its systems is a byproduct of those very domains preferring my body and its existence.
However, even when second-guessing this aspect of my thought process, I still found myself questioning the idea of radical change. Or, rather, I found myself irritated with the broader calls to burn down the world as we know it.
First and foremost, circling back to the questions posed earlier, what does this all mean? When this type of rhetoric is employed, yet completely disconnected to a specific tangible problem, it only seems to perpetuate a tone and understanding of the world that seems ironic. Essentially, those who I believe to be at the forefront of social justice and change in the world hope to make the world a better place because they believe it can be achieved, despite the occasional intensity of internal pessimistic feelings.
One example that I will close with is our growing conversation around defunding or entirely abolishing police in the U.S. To me, this cause is something that is desperately needed. How it takes form, though, I have a little to no idea. This isn’t because I am unaware of what a society without police might look like. Rather, it is because this type of radical change doesn’t occur overnight. The change that I hope to see in our world — the change which I think most of my peers at CC hope for — occurs one step at a time.
This matter of fact should be separate from a specific, oppressive rhetoric of gratitude which demands individuals to be grateful for what they already have and be patient for what is yet to come. One step at a time should mean that we fight tirelessly and remain present and bullish. It should mean understanding and learning from those who led the fight before us without losing sight of our vision for the future.
So, are you interested in helping make this change? For starters, for all things good and holy, please get out and vote. There is simply too much on the line to decide that it won’t matter. Second, if you are interested in ways which you can make an impact here at CC and in Colorado Springs, sign this petition created by Collective for Antiracism and Liberation (CAL). The petition is a proposed new contract between CC and the Colorado Springs Police Department that CAL, and me personally, believe the school ought to negotiate.
Here is the proposal/petition: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AypDmSDennItRwNq_P7KRqM4ZI-036Ru0706QOG9w EU/edit