Departing President of National Association for College Admission Counseling Says “All Lives Matter”

At the recent National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) conference, the departing president, Mr. Phil Trout, asked those in attendance to to reflect on “a time of profound anxiety and distress in our country.” Trout was referring to the debate in the United States surrounding the killing of unarmed black men by law enforcement. Trout specifically referred to the case of Tyre King, a black teenager who was shot by a white police officer in Columbus saying, We join them in their call for justice and for [an] end to the violence. This tragedy challenges us once again to remember that all lives matter.” Trout took a lot of heat for that remark. He told the Chronicle that he saw the words as being benevolent.

“To me, it was a statement of sympathy and solidarity,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of the code. I didn’t know that ‘All lives matter’ was so completely dismissive of, or a rejection of, Black Lives Matter. I totally and completely abhor those who reject that. I never intended to do harm.”

But yet, those three words cause so much harm. As Trout said, he recognizes that the words are used to reject the fact that black lives do matter and that blacks are killed and harassed by law enforcement at a drastic rate. To try to explain the significance of those words being used to reject the Black Lives Matter movement, I offer the following meme making its rounds on the internet.

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Do the words “Black Lives Matter” strike a chord with students on campuses around the country? I’m sure they do. But what of these words at a campus like Virginia Tech, where blacks make up approximately 3.7% of the total student population. Do those words resonate with white students on Virginia Tech’s campus or are they quick to say, “All Lives Matter?” If the departing president of NACAC was not aware of the significance of “All Lives Matter,” maybe students are not also aware. If this is the case, what should faculty do to make sure this conversation happens regardless of our disciplines?