Letter: POWER responds to Gina Martin article

As members of Protesting Oppression With Educational Reform (POWER), a group working to advocate for BIPOC students, we have a vested interest in how The Beacon and other predominantly white organizations on campus portray the BIPOC community. We do our best to be aware of the current feelings and standing of BIPOC students at Emerson College. The situation that Martin is in is unfortunate, and we are not insensitive to that. We would also like to preface that this letter isn’t an attack on Martin or any one person’s character, nor do we want to lessen the impact of this financial change in her life. However, within our immediately accessible community, we felt that this article amplified the voice of a white ally and, in the process, diminished the voices of BIPOC students and their experiences.

The first indication of this was in the lede, which states “…Gina Martin told her Facebook friends Black Lives Matter. What she didn’t realize is how supporting a nationwide movement for racial justice—one rooted in equity, change, and betterment—would topple her own life.”  The lede implies that Martin sacrificed everything for the Black Lives Matter Movement and is a martyr, and it redirects attention away from the BLM movement, as well as the Black lives that have been lost in the pursuit of equality and basic human rights. It implies that conversations about the movement is something that Martin can opt into, an indication of white privilege that is not recognized in the article.

While the focus of this article was supposed to be about the financial predicament that Martin is in, the article undermined the BLM movement because of its focus on a non-Black woman. The article was framed in a way that seemed to portray her as a “white savior,” as if her financial predicament—and the social media posts that were the catalyst for this situation—alone makes her an ally to the BIPOC community. There is so much more that goes into being an ally. The first job is to take a step back and give those who have been historically silenced a chance to tell their own story, rather than have someone else tell their story for them.

Additionally, the article presents Martin’s punishment in a way that doesn’t consider the financial standing of many other students at our institution. People of color are more likely to come from lower-income communities due to the history of systemic racism and rarely receive the same press, social media attention, and support that Martin did, specifically from Emerson’s Financial Aid Office.

The backlash and disownment from standing up for one’s values are all too common in BIPOC communities. The BLM movement should be by and for Black people with non-Black people of color and white allies standing alongside them. This article highlights a white person’s experience with activism on the topic of justice for Black people in America, rather than the movement and pursuit of justice for Black people itself.

Although The Beacon made an effort to report on the BLM protests in Boston over the past few months, this does not justify the publication of an article that redirects attention away from the BLM movement. The Beacon continued this process by centering this article on Martin and only providing the link to her GoFundMe, while failing to provide resources for BLM organizations.

We hope The Beacon understands our dissatisfaction with this article and will work to change this manner of framing, addressing, and reporting on white privilege in the midst of a human rights movement.

Editor’s note: Emily Cardona is a Deputy Sports Editor at The Beacon and Shruti Rajkumar is Assistant Lifestyle Editor. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, email Letters@BerkeleyBeacon.com. Letters may be edited for style and clarity.