As the country remains polarized by the kneeling of NFL players during the national anthem, one graduate student at the University of Michigan took the peaceful protest tradition a step further.
Dana Greene Jr. began his protet by kneeling down in front of a campus flag at 7:00 AM, where he remained until 3:30 a.m. the following morning. In a letter to university president Mark Schlissel, Greene explained he was tired of doing nothing about the injustices he sees everyday, and for this reason, he was going to bring attention to the problem by kneeling for as long as he could.
The letter written by Greene, a Detroit native, also calls out the unfair treatment that many minority groups on his campus have faced during the five years he has spent matriculating at the Ann Arbor college. It’s a sentiment that has become increasingly more common from students of color attending predominantly white institutions.
In the last few years, many have started to question if U.S. colleges have a race problem. Research has shown that the racial climate of a college campus does play a role in the academic success of its’ students. Naturally, students perform better in environments that are not considered hostile. It’s a factor that has played out on school campuses since the first days of school integration. The University of Michigan’s Diag campus is no exception.
During his demonstration, Greene was joined by other U-M students who took a knee, and supported him with drop-offs of food and water. The masters’ student told local paper M Live, “I’m doing this for every student on this campus that has ever felt like they didn’t belong here.”
Read Greene’s letter to president Schlissel in full below.
Dear President Schlissel,
I have attended the University of Michigan for five years. I have crossed the fountain in Ingalls Mall as an incoming freshman and as a graduate. I’ve walked the halls of our dorms as a Resident assistant and I’ve mopped the floors of our dining halls. I’ve marched in the Diag when our campus and country faced the tension of racial strife. I am a black man and this weekend I watched many black men take a knee during our country’s national anthem to bring attention to the inequality in this country. I also watched the President of the United States disrespect those men referring to them as “Sons of Bitches” and demanding that they should be fired from their jobs.
During the course of the last year I have watched as anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-Latinx, and anti-immigrant rhetoric has raced across our campus and across our country and I can no longer stand silently by. You see I had become numb to what our country and our campus had become. I had convinced myself that if I simply continued to move forward with my studies and with my job that things would get better. I am no longer numb but instead I will use this moment in time to make a statement.
I will kneel in the Diag facing the flag in silent protest until there is nothing left in me. I am prepared to miss class and work for a simple idea. I am not kneeling in disrespect to our troops or to our country. I am kneeling because we should be better than this. I am kneeling because I am tired of doing nothing. I am kneeling because I want this campus and this country to acknowledge a fact that I know to be true. We are not and have never lived by the idea of our founding that ALL men are created equal. I am kneeling because we our better than this.
Dana Greene Jr.
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
School of Public Health Research Assistant Health Behavior Health Education Prevention Research Center