Dozens of people formed a half moon around the TV in the Learning Center. At each end, the crescent tapered off just before the doorways. A few people at a time flitted back and forth to the table at the far end of the room, where there were boxes of pizza, cookies, lemonade, soda. The people making the outer curved edge of the group were either tall enough to see across the sea of quiet heads or lucky enough to have found a decent spot despite being late (I was in the latter category). People sat shoulder-to-shoulder in any seat they could find, from highchairs to couches to a front-row spot on the carpet.
The room was quiet but not silent; there was a constant undercurrent of murmuring and rustling. This year's Raiders Against Prejudice (RAP) leaders Anika Iqbal '20 and Thomas Nimon '20 stood on either side of the TV. Iqbal stood slightly behind the TV with her hands in her pockets, calm, collected, but listening intently. Thomas—holding a computer that was undoubtedly open to a file teeming with data and reports—addressed the group, introducing the next video: footage captured during a mass shooting by a nearby civilian. The room fell silent and the air swelled with the audio’s bursts of gunfire and screams. I was suddenly grateful for my semi-obscured view (for context, all you could really see was people fleeing, no blood; still, it was enough to make you queasy). But no one in the room could turn away from those sounds.
It was the second RAP meeting of the school year, and the topic was gun violence. Students of all grades attended, as did many members of the faculty; the presence of not only security personnel, like director of campus security Mitch Love, but also faculty members who served in the army, such as Dr. Robin Fazio '92, greatly enhanced the discussion.
While the conversation at times grew heated, the larger dynamic of the group made up for that tension. One moment it seemed as though two great waves of ideology were simmering, dangerously gathering height, poised to crash into each other at any moment. A few seconds later the entire room was chuckling at some comical moment in the debate, and the waves softened and receded, and we could again see that we all stood on common ground: we sought safety for ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones.
“I was super impressed by the turnout and the range of perspectives we had,” says Nimon. “It was really cool to see that, even with such a potentially polarizing topic, we can prove that civil and productive dialogue is possible at Baylor. We covered everything from gun culture to gun violence but by far my favorite part was that we had students, teachers, and Baylor security, all with different backgrounds and opinions, leading the discussion and having the confidence to speak out.”
The allotted hour passed quickly, and we were disappointed to have to end the conversation so soon. All traces of animosity from the more tense moments of the night had vanished. The meeting ended with a round of applause—an acknowledgement of our efforts and of a blooming confidence in our ability to disagree with civility and respect.