We at SPLC on Campus have seen a lot of amazing events put on by our clubs all over the country in the past couple of years, from film screenings and voter registration to protests and forums exploring complex issues. Though we encourage the students in our clubs to organize around the issues they care most about, in light of the current political climate as well as actions being held on college campuses everywhere, we offer these four focus areas for your consideration:
Racial injustice has long been an issue in the United States. People of color often disproportionately face segregated and underfunded schools, the school-to-prison pipeline, and an unfair criminal justice system.
The school-to-prison pipeline – unnecessary suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrests of children – is just one way that systemic racism pervades across the country and often cuts a child’s education short and increases the likelihood of incarceration. Additionally, the criminal justice system is one marred by vast racial disparities.
College students are speaking out against racial bias in its many forms, from profiling by law enforcement to implicit and explicit bias in the classroom. They are also demanding that racist symbols be removed from their local communities and names of buildings and monuments that memorialize known racists be changed. At a time when the voices of white supremacists are being amplified and normalized, many students are speaking out and protesting hate speech on campus.
Poor people in the United States are not only facing an economic gap – they’re facing a justice gap. Too often, they’re exploited and abused simply for being poor.
They’re victimized by predatory lenders who trap them in a cycle of debt and rob them and their communities of resources. They’re denied access to the social safety net by politicians who stigmatize low-income workers and blame them for our country’s problems. They’re exploited and imprisoned by local governments that target impoverished communities for revenue-generating traffic fines – and by companies that seek to profit by charging fees for improper but court-ordered “services” like payment plans.
Millennials and college students often face unique financial problems, and there has been a lot of organizing around issues such as affordable college tuition, the fight for a higher minimum wage, and the social safety net. Graduate student employees continue to fight for better pay and benefits, and students across the country speak out against income inequality.
Immigrants perform some of the hardest, most dangerous jobs in our economy – too often for the least amount of pay. Despite this, they’re routinely denied basic protections in the workplace. In their communities, they’re subjected to racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement, as well as being frequently forced to prove themselves innocent of immigration violations, regardless of their legal status. Their children, many of them U.S. citizens or longtime members of the community, are often denied school enrollment or the educational services.
In response to the spread of racist and xenophobic rhetoric as well as the massive increase in deportations in recent years, many college students are standing up for the rights and dignity of immigrants. More and more colleges and cities have made headlines recently by standing out and declaring themselves sanctuaries so they may protect undocumented immigrants studying and living there.
Despite progress across the United States, it is still the case that the LGBTQ community in the South, the Midwest, and other areas continue to face significant barriers to equality.
There are still many places in this country where employers can fire or refuse to hire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ people are also vulnerable to discrimination in public accommodations or housing, and the community is frequently victimized by violent hate crimes. In addition, LGBTQ youth often encounter harassment and bullying in school, and they typically make up a disproportionate percentage of homeless youth throughout the county.
Though state legislatures all over the country have been pushing anti-trans legislation in recent years, students are working with a variety of progressive groups to defeat such bills. Further, students are often fighting against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in their communities and fighting for safe spaces on their campuses.
These issues are very much a part of the work done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and we encourage students to work together with each other and with other groups on campus to organize and be advocates for justice and equality for all.