AU Pride leader says activism is the key to change

Max Miller-Edwards, a junior at American University, sits down for a Zoom interview on Aug. 28. (Sophie Austin)

By Sophie Austin

Max Miller-Edwards protested outside of the White House on Thursday, during the same night that President Donald Trump accepted his party’s presidential nomination, capping off the Republican National Convention. 

Miller-Edwards, a junior majoring in political science at American University, plans to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in November. 

“Trump is disastrous for this country,” they said. “I’m not saying Biden’s good, but if there’s any chance that he could improve the situation at all, then I’m going to take that.”

Miller-Edwards, the executive director of AU Pride, the university’s LGBTQ+ student group, said the most important issue for them personally is reining in COVID-19, which has claimed over 180,000 lives in the country. On a nationwide scale, they said whoever is elected or re-elected must prioritize the combined impacts of the pandemic and racism.

In addition, Miller-Edwards said it’s important for AU to improve how it addresses these issues.

Miller-Edwards said AU is not doing enough to combat racism, which became the focal point of protests throughout the country and overseas following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

“AU has a history of not putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to racial injustice,” Miller-Edwards said. They said that AU’s new Office of Equity and Title IX, which handles sexual misconduct and racial discrimination complaints, is a “Band-Aid solution” to systemic racial injustice.

In June, AU planned to host a mixture of online and in-person classes for the fall semester, but the university reversed its position in July, after COVID-19 cases increased and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered people coming from hot-spot states to quarantine for two weeks.

While Miller-Edwards said having a remote semester is best, AU’s last-minute reversal was poorly executed and exacerbated housing concerns for students. AU should do more to support students who aren’t able to live at home, they said.

Miller-Edwards, who’s registered to vote in Ohio, is sending their absentee ballot to the battleground state from D.C., where Miller-Edwards is living for the semester.

They said activism by everyday Americans is an essential way to affect change, and they are not enthusiastic about Biden’s or Trump’s ability to heal the country from its ailments: the virus and racism. 

“In our current structure, I believe that politicians can help, but I don’t think that they can solve all our issues,” Miller-Edwards said. 

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