DUELING TYPEWRITERS: Are sit-outs effective?


FOR: “What we need right now”

Izzy Feldman ’21 

A sit out was held by Hill students Mofe Akinyanmi ’21 and Kendal Thomas ’21 in response to the acquittal of Breonna Taylor’s murderers. Taylor was a 26-year-old EMT, who was shot and killed as a direct result of police brutality and systemic racism.

The sit out took place on the pathways lining the quad and drew in a physically distanced crowd of 100 or so people, according to some in attendance. 

  I think I speak on behalf of most, if not all of the participants in saying that the organized event was moving–– and a clear step forward in dismantling Hill as a bubble of ignorance to issues of systemic injustice and social unrest. Yet, the peaceful protest generated controversy. Upon seeing the event, many students decided to walk back to their dorms, rejecting the open invitation to sit down. Even more so, the protest was criticized by some as being unproductive and ultimately inconsequential in creating change.

To those students and whoever is reading this, I pose a question: What defines productivity? Can we measure significance by the number of people who showed up or the response from faculty of which it conjured–– and should we? Is it possible to measure significance and productivity at all? And if it is, who’s to say our standards are correct in doing so? People have protested for their rights throughout history, some violently, some peacefully, but they advocated for themselves, nonetheless. We have seen in this country, firsthand, the reaction to protesting in a violent manner. People are labeled “thugs”, their movement: “a symbol of hate.” In fighting for their own humanity, they are defamed, shot dead, hung. People who were predisposed to see themselves as allies to Black people “couldn’t understand the looting.” It didn’t make sense to them. It wasn’t productive, but when people, students and faculty, sit silently, peacefully, in honor and defense of the humanity of oppressed people, it earns similar backlash. People can’t understand it. 

My religious radicals teacher, Rev. Khristi Adams, told our class that we “have to make room” for people to react. We have to make room for anger, violence, and even peace. I argue that the most productive thing we can do is to make room for each other, for sit-outs, for marches, for noise, and for silence. Productivity cannot be measured; significance cannot be analyzed. Our community came together, and we mourned. Maybe for some, that mourning inspired in them a desire to do better, a motivation to be a better ally. Or maybe it reaffirmed all the work they’ve been doing as being in the right direction. 

The only fact that can be spoken about the sit-out was that it happened. People joined, they showed up and I think if everyone in our country were to show up for Breonna Taylor, we would be living in a different world. I think Hill is doing its part in that work by showing up. It’s exactly what we need right now and by all standards productive.


AGAINST: “What is the point?”

Tofe Akinyanmi ’23 

If this was a protest, I’ve been protesting since kindergarten. I mean, I learned “sit still be quiet” before multiplication. The school’s little “sit-out” didn’t achieve anything, it was a photo-op for the school, and, frankly, it seems the only result was patting a bunch of kids on the back and saying, “Hey! You’re an activist!” The government definitely won’t make a change because of it. So, what was the point? To show solidarity? If you want to show solidarity, then fight! Saying that we won’t stand for this, but not following through by doing anything is just hypocritical hogwash.

Civil disobedience has one necessary caveat. It needs to include disobedience. So, sitting around isn’t quite fitting the bill. One of the main factors in a protest that achieves something is breaking the rules. There’s a reason it’s called civil disobedience. A peaceful protest is hard to pull off, as it can easily turn violent. But sometimes, the opposite problem occurs. That is what happened at our school. It was too peaceful. Now don’t get me wrong, a sit-out can be great when done right. But ours left a great bit to be desired. There was no disobedience involved. Were we sitting somewhere we weren’t allowed to be? No. Were we doing it at a time when we weren’t permitted to? No. So why even bother?

 It wasn’t beneficial to ‘the cause’ (as it’s often referred to) so what was the point? Neither a protest nor a memorial. A silent echo of the turmoil of the outside world, except out there, people are doing things. They’re making a change. Us, the family boarding school? We’re just sitting around. So this is a call to action. If you want to make things better, make a change? Then do it. Donate. Write letters. Email your senators. But for the sake of the world, and our lives, know that just sitting around won’t make a change. Just following the rules won’t make a change.

I, of course, sympathize with the intention behind it, but ultimately, it amounted to nothing. I just wish we could have achieved something. Done something. Made a difference.