On Wednesday, Jan. 20, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America. Making the moment even more historic was the presence of his running mate, Kamala D. Harris, the first female, African-American and Asian-American Vice President of the United States. Many hope that a Biden administration will be a turning point in the journey to mend the wounds inflicted by racism in this country, but I do not think his election alone is enough to fix such injustices. Despite my concerns, Biden’s presidency does present an opportunity for Furman students to set their divisions aside and come together as a community to improve diversity and inclusion on Furman’s campus.

In the past few years, especially in 2020, we saw Black Lives Matter protests rise up across the nation, sparked by the wrongful killings of African-Americans at the hands of police officers – the very people sworn to protect them. Members of the Furman community protested, helped increase awareness of social issues, and used their platforms to encourage others to vote. The community came together and worked to find solutions to put an end to racial injustice. 

Despite this progress, we still have a long way to go. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump continuously made racist remarks that served to empower prejudiced people and ideals still present in America, turning back years of progress. When Joe Biden won the election in November, many saw this as a fresh start and had hope that America could become the country we all know it is capable of becoming. However, the events of Jan. 6 showed us that we still have a long way to go. 

While a joint session of Congress was being held to formalize Biden’s victory, angry protestors who appeared to be Trump supporters got past Capitol security with ease, breaking into the building to try and stop the counting and certification of Electoral College votes. The events that unfolded that day have led many to raise the question, “Why were these people allowed such easy access into the Capitol?” The fact that these people were easily able to break into a government building while Black Lives Matter protesters were being pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets on the street shows a clear disparity in protester treatment. We live in a country where one group of protestors speaking out against wrongful killings are treated worse than aggressive protesters storming a government building. The Capitol siege revealed wounds of racism and attacks on democracy that are deeply ingrained in our society, and there is a long road ahead to find the solution.

This event struck especially close to home because two Paladins posted on social media about attending the protests in Washington, D.C. Their attendance alone has prompted campus-wide discussions about how to approach people who disagree so fundamentally with the values held closely by many students: democracy, equity, and racial justice.

So, what does a Biden presidency mean for America? What does it mean for life at Furman? A Biden presidency will likely reduce some of the tension caused by Trump’s racist rhetoric and policies. However, a new president and more legislation alone are not enough to fix the deep-rooted, interpersonal challenges in our country. To combat these issues, the American public must come together and say, “enough is enough.” Although this shift may not happen across our nation over the next four years, this change in attitude must occur on our campus.

Furman has worked diligently to promote a community that is accepting of all walks of life. At an administrative level, there are many measures to promote diversity and inclusion in our community, but our student body still has room to grow. It is vital for Furman students to support and listen to their peers, even when they do not see eye to eye. We can use this new presidency as a new beginning on campus, putting the past four years of polarization behind us. This is a chance to treat our peers with respect and become a more inclusive community.  This fresh start will make it easier to promote harmony within the gates of Furman and the outside world. Regardless of who the President is, it is always ultimately up to us to create a community that values inclusion, diversity, and unity.