Last St. Patrick’s Day, I was on Lowes when the police in riot gear cleared the student neighborhood. I remember being worried about the possibility of getting in trouble. It didn’t occur to me to be worried about my own safety. At the moment, the police response felt more ridiculous than anything else. But then I overheard the student next to me tell his friend, “The police are here? It’s just like the real ghetto.” My stomach turned.
As a white student at a mostly white school, police presence usually makes me feel safer. That’s not true for everyone in this community. And our discussions about St. Patrick’s Day, and day drinks in general, needs to consider the privilege afforded to a student body who mostly discusses the police and public safety as a nuisance.
In “What Do You Call White Rioters?,” a 2016 Huffington Post article, Robert Greenwald argues that college students at day drinks and sports fans following big wins are described in terms of debauchery, while black communities protesting violence are condemned and responded to as thugs.
When police in riot gear descended upon rowdy University of Dayton students in kerry-green Drunk Lives Matter shirts, WDTN reported “a large crowd was throwing things at police and not responding to police commands.” But when police descend upon groups of individuals wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, our media coverage rarely uses language as generous as “crowds.” When they’re alone, black men are characterized as thugs. When they’re together, they’re characterized as rioting.
At a different school, St. Patrick’s day could have ended in far worse than deep disappointment. It’s fine to be young and a college students and upset about St. Patrick’s Day being canceled (I am too). But in this moment, our community has way more to lose than day drinks.
Last week Montgomery County just approved a permit for the KKK rally at Courthouse Square. Last month, the Dayton Daily News broke a story that uncovered continued redlining in the city of Dayton. Our concerns about the spaces and safeties we have access to are not the same concerns as those who we share this community with. As a predominantly white institution, it’s on all of us to consider what our privilege affords us. St. Patrick’s Day is not our biggest problem.
Photo taken by Christian Cubacub.