Regardless of your opinion regarding the altercation between Mike Tracey and the Ewing Police on Feb. 18, you cannot help but notice the response by the College’s student body to the controversy. More than 1,300 people joined the “Stand With Mike Tracey” Facebook group, most of whom are College students. Supporters and skeptics posted paragraph after paragraph of online responses to the incident.
This outcry of opinions seems unusual on a campus that is generally apathetic. While anyone can join an online group without actively involving themselves beyond the point of clicking a button, you cannot ignore the hundreds of emotionally charged opinions and thousands of words that have been written either in support or criticism of Tracey. Perhaps this campus is not as indifferent to current events and social injustices as it seems at first glance.
To that point, it is important to acknowledge the various on-campus socially conscience groups that exist. The College’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Circle K and the nationally recognized Bonner Center are just a few of these service-oriented organizations. However, it is simply not enough to passively observe those that are giving back and use their hard work to satisfy our feeling of obligation to serve. It is this distinct detachment – the notion that somebody else will take care of it – that allows for social injustices to occur every day.
The recent outpouring of opinions over the Tracey controversy has shown there are many students who are sensitive to attacks on our liberty. Now imagine if there was the same outcry of hundreds or even thousands of students voicing their thoughts on poverty, violence and a deteriorating education system, all of which exist only a few miles from our campus.
Rather than simply caring about issues that may affect us in our world, imagine the results if we worked together to fight battles going on outside our gates. Imagine if Tracey, along with those who support and opposed him on this issue, used the time and effort put forth in this controversy toward addressing the social injustices that exist in Trenton.
While ignorance and misconceptions about the urban environment challenge our ability to address these injustices, ignorance can be met with knowledge. In fact, it is much less complicated than one might think to clear up misconceptions about areas like Trenton. It does not take a complex argument about the effects of welfare to address the shallow perception that impoverished families have a desire to remain in poverty.
Similarly, it does not take a slew of educational statistics to defeat the notion that urban students are unable to learn at the same level as suburban students. However, it does take a visit with a child at Hedgepath-Williams Elementary School or a brief discussion with a struggling family at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen to defeat these misconceptions. This sort of active learning is necessary to defeat ignorance and in turn, prevent the spreading of apathy.
Short of going into Trenton, I encourage you to keep an eye out for a series of on-campus forums sponsored by various organizations with the aim to educate College students about the realities of life in the urban environment. No one, including myself, is exempt from this call to action. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Whether you have participated in a Community Engaged Learning day or other service projects, I ask you to see it as something more than a means of appeasing your conscience and look beyond what you have already done. Do not claim that our campus’ social conscience is adequate, for that would simply make us victims of our own low standards.
Rather, seek out the community service organizations on campus. Seek out the Bonner Center, which takes teams of students into Trenton every week to help impoverished children and their families.
If we follow this path toward awareness and knowledge, we can begin to realize the privileges we have which those less fortunate cannot fathom. We can begin to realize why it is rewarding to help others who cannot help themselves. Most of all, as we get even deeper into this journey, we can begin to acknowledge that our daily success is contaminated by the knowledge that the game is rigged to our advantage from the beginning.