An Open Letter to Emerson’s Social Media Manager

By Hadera McKay , Opinion Editor

Dear Emerson College Social Media Manager, 

Did your finger slip on the post button? Were you only half-awake? Were you in a rush to get to the labor-free day that my ancestors paid for in generational trauma? That Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. paid for in blood? Did you think that the prior week’s obligatory posts of unveiled embracing limbs fulfilled this month’s quota for social justice posts? 

No matter the cause, you made an enemy of me in less than 15 seconds. I’m sure you’ve heard this before; you’ve been condemned by students for your empty infographics, your half-assed attempts at solidarity. Maybe this is what makes your most recent transgression so abhorrent to me: the fact that you didn’t even try. 

In fact, you did something much worse. Your story photo of a washed out Little Building was startling. I pass that gothic-inspired dormitory for Emerson’s majority affluent and white first-year class every day. I am aware of Emerson’s ever-expansive occupation of downtown Boston into Chinatown, of the perpetual need for growth that isolates itself from the needs of permanent residents—from people of color, from people who are homeless. I am aware of the urban narrative you’re perpetuating: the archetypal wealthy liberal arts college takes precedence over affordable housing. I am also aware of the irony of using this as your background for a celebration post for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Are you? 

Of course, you were not celebrating anything. Much like the way that your employer operates, you prioritized financial consequences over BIPOC safety. Considering your track record, I should have expected your simple block letters announcing that “The college is closed today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” I should have nodded to myself, should have said of course. I should not have been frustrated by the nonchalance with which you denounced Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, his murder, his day. I should not have thought about how easily this translated to denouncing my existence at this college and people who look like me; how you so easily reduced a symbol of Black pain and freedom alike to a day off. If your lack of effort to honor a figure as great as King is an indication of the measure of care Emerson devotes to supporting Black students, it’s clear we matter as much as a 15-second Instagram story. 

But I did. I thought about the ever-present feeling of invisibility, of brokenness, of frustration that follows me at this predominantly white institution. I thought about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of how adamantly he rebuked complacency; of how hard it is to be a part of an institution where your existence is always a question. I asked why and your lack of response was more affirming than anything you’d done yet. 

Celebrities with three times as many followers are rooting through their DM’s and you couldn’t even give me a second look? You left me on read? 

You made so many mistakes, and so did I—the greatest of them believing that you would not do what’s in your job description. Perhaps, you did exactly what you were told. Perhaps you are representing Emerson College the best way you know how: as the inauthentic, virtue-signaling, and self-serving institution that I know it to be.