"Sitting at the Table Doesn't Make You a Diner"

John Markis, T’22 reflects on his summer Muser research experience in the Black Lives Matter/ Vidas Negras Importam Exhibition.

“Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner. You must be eating some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.” -Malcolm X


Its lands, replete with fertile, unperturbed soil, remained unbeknownst to European markets until the Age of Discovery. After hundreds of years in submission as a colony, revolution soon transpired, with patriots declaring égalité the founding doctrine of independence; nevertheless, the belief that all men are created equal was cast in the ghastly blood of imported Africans. Even as the nation progressed, its racial hierarchy has never dissipated but rather merely mutated into various strains of that original, endemic virus: racism.. Indeed, while politicians have modified the periphery of law, black citizens of both Brazil and the United States have yet to receive total emancipation from state-mandated inferiority.


When I was growing up, local convention designated Brazil as solely a soccer-driven paradise brimming with howler monkeys, piranhas, and boas; moreover, my high school curriculum, aligned with the entrenched Eurocentrism of the American educational system, did not contemplate the Global South beyond reference for colonization. Yet my study of Brazil through Muser has opened my eyes to the patterns of oppression which occur in every country. For instance, take the police. By watching popular media, one could logically arrive at the conclusion that America stands alone in the prevalence of its police brutality; however, Brazil, in which officers kill six times as many civilians, is undergoing a similar reckoning. I have witnessed that this struggle against racism transcends artificial borders but rather seeps into inculcates the entire human race. 


The goal of our project has fundamentally rested upon the principle of viva politics: that governments should not uphold death-inducing policies. Viva incorporates myriad economic and social views and eschews partisanship; what ultimately unites the group is an unapologetic commitment to life. After all, if the state cannot protect that primary right of humans, what good does it provide? As the Caribbean author Aimé Césaire once remarked, “In the whole world no poor devil is lynched, no wretch is tortured, in whom I too am not degraded and murdered.” These tenets of universal solidarity and sense of accountability guide the mission. 


We will offer an exhibition throughout the halls of the Classroom Building this fall, with each member providing original introspection and comparison between Brazil and the United States. We will then send the entire collection to São Paulo, Brazil, where program coordinator Dr. Silvio Almedia resides, to promote inter-continental ties and stimulate intellectual discussion. Thanks to Dr. John French, Courtney Crumpler, Gray Kidd, Marcelo Ramos, and Chloe Ricks, the group has worked extensively to create a meaningful project for our community audience.