Black & blue after ‘the rock’

The Bethel University campus ponders aftermath of ‘the rock’.

By Nathanael Dallaire | Royal Report

Under layers of sprayed acrylic, lies the words painted on the rock in Kresge courtyard rock during the early-morning darkness of Sept. 28. Over future decades, frigid Minnesota winters will freeze & thaw as Royal students win sports titles, or fall in love, then graduate. However, the spray-painted words that bursted Bethel’s bubble this fall, will forever remain.

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“Fuck Black Lives Matter”

The four word response was collected from the optional comment section of a recent anonymous online poll completed by 135 Bethel students & alumni. The poll was designed to assist in understanding Bethel’s current atmosphere in regards to race following ‘the rock’. Surprisingly, over 60 respondents chose to type an anonymous comment. A diverse array of thoughts were shared, generating an astounding total count of 3,884 words.

The charged statement is indicative of heightened emotion remaining on campus. This brand of black lives matter opposition among some Royals was revealed by the anonymous poll, yet has proven difficult to capture on record.

Campus pastor, Laurel Bunker, sees ‘the rock’ as a microcosm of a greater issue regarding the, “lack of care, concern or value of black bodies.” “The way it was articulated on the rock, the language was ‘black lives matter,’” she explains, “I think the community, or those who disagreed, took [it] as a support of or automatic connection with the larger organization of Black Lives Matter; rather than a cry and a plea to see that black lives matter.”

Bunker went on to explain how Bethel’s recent wrestling with racial-issues have become politicized, painting the presidential election as responsible for knocking “rock-talk” off course. Bunker concludes that rock-talk is best kept separate from politics and that the phrase, “black lives matter” should remain independent from the Black Lives Matter organization itself.

However, phrasing issues remain a common theme within rock-talk. An anonymous student of color recently spoke on the phrase ‘Us For Us,’ which students, faculty and many others gathered to paint over the rock on Nov. 29 in the wake of the incident. He acknowledged the phrase as a worthwhile tool for understanding the principle that hurting or healing another human, is synonymous with hurting or healing one’s self. Yet, the student went on to claim that for himself & some others, the phrase was an unwanted compromise.

“[It’s a] creative way of saying ‘all lives matter.’ ‘Us for Us’ was not what was originally painted on the rock. The message of ‘Black Lives Matter’ was painted to express solidarity with black students of Northwestern facing persecution,” the student said.

He then detailed current rumblings among some students of color who felt their voice had been misarticulated while reverberating through post-rock dialogue. He admits these students have presently become unwilling to speak on-record about ‘the rock,’ or even general issues of race facing Bethel. This was confirmed as multiple students of color and various cultural activists on campus respectfully declined to comment in this article.

After ‘the rock’, the Bethel Clarion received an overly-abundant inflow of material supporting Bethel’s ‘black lives matter’ movement. Yet, as written in the Clarion’s ‘Letter from the Editor’ following the incident, “we heard hesitation [from sources] to publish even a paragraph [of oppositional content].” With student-leaders/activists declining to comment,the optional section of our poll returning thousands of anonymous words criticizing Bethel’s ‘black lives matter movement,’ despite the lack of opposition on record, it’s apparent that at least currently, there’s a considerable discrepancy between what people are saying — and what they’re thinking.

This proves problematic because an overarching theme of ‘the rock’ incident has been promoting healthy dialogue. For the time being, however, rock-talk has been hindered, halted or “knocked off course” as pastor Laurel Bunker put it.

Black student & freshman Hilda Davis, expressed some aspects of her post-rock experience in a positive light. “People have popped out of the woodwork, even though it didn’t impact them personally as it was for me, they showed that they cared and empathized,” she said.

On the surface to some, the post-rock narrative may be one of forgiving, overcoming & moving past, but for others, that is not completely accurate. Conversations with various students of color revealed the reality of their post-rock story as one of pain, anger and continued daily struggle facing them regardless of ‘the rock’ incident.

“I look around in a lot of my classes and I’m the only black person. The incident confirmed that for me,” — Hilda Davis, freshman

“I feel like Bethel has moved on rather quickly,” said sophomore Josh Simms. “I didn’t feel safe, didn’t feel valued, didn’t feel represented. Bethel University, we pride ourselves in being the salt & light & the truth seekers, but how can we claim to do that and be so quick to move past conflict or disagreements? If you ask me if Bethel University changed, I would say no.”

Simms concluded, “You’re living in a world that’s a lot more diverse than Arden Hills, Minn. I’m not asking you to be an activist on the front line leading a march, but at the very least be knowledgeable about what other people are going through whether or not you agree with it.”