I try to avoid using the word “mistake” when reflecting on past actions, because I like to think of such actions as learning experiences.
However, hindsight is 20/20, and every so often there are actions that I would take back, if I could. I even find myself regretting some actions.
I don’t regret a single thing I did on behalf of the striking janitors at the University of Miami. I don’t regret the tent city, I don’t regret the sit-in, I don’t regret the disruption.
I don’t regret it for one simple reason: We have a cultural tendency to filter – a student hands out a flier in the breezeway, the news reports that someone was shot and killed, a janitor pushes a bright yellow cart down a hall. and no one notices. We are such filterers that we barely process anything anymore.
This tendency, coupled with the overwhelming apathy of people in Miami, has made it virtually impossible to affect change – until now. I will always be someone who believes in the power of education and information. I would love to live in a world where people pay attention the plight of others, or where people pay attention period.
Now that the Miami community has seen the commitment to change that exists here, extreme tactics will no longer be necessary to affect change. Now that people are aware of what’s going on, hopefully information will be enough to affect change. Perhaps the student body will pay attention to the plight of the people right here in Miami: scandals about affordable housing, the distribution of wealth, discrimination against immigrants, racism/ethnic segregation, etc.
I know that my hope is stubborn, and at times it may seem naive. However, three years ago, I was told that I could not find activists at the University of Miami, and that I was only one person and therefore could not affect change. This was the overwhelming mindset of the student population at UM, and over the course of our campaign, I learned that the administration shares that mindset.
I’m happy to report that I found activists, and despite our small number, we affected change. I hope I have changed (or at least shaken) the mindset of the student population, and I hope to continue to convince them that change is possible. Given the latent talent I’ve discovered within the student population already, I know that this student body can – and will do wonders, when they start believing that real change is possible.
Current events, market trends, Generation Y consumer tendencies, technology (in other words, the Internet)…they all indicate that real change is possible. Watch out, status quo.
Bethany Quinn is a senior majoring in Latin American Studies and Photography. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org