The Black Lives Matter movement is not just a hashtag. It is today’s reaction to being black and isolated. Alone. Again.

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I APPRECIATE Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long for her insightful piece on what it’s like to be black on the University of Washington or Washington State University campus, [“What it’s like to be black on campus: isolated, exhausted, calling for change,” Page One, April 10.] This subtle undercurrent of racism can make our higher-education system a very hostile place — not the inclusive, thinking community we had planned.

There is an old saying that’s appropriate here: Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.

I recall some of those brave black kids at Garfield High — smart, hardworking and creative students — who felt the same isolation, exhaustion and embarrassment about being the only black student taking an advanced-placement (AP) class. Many of the black students didn’t want to take AP classes because that same social pressure described in Long’s piece was just as rampant there.

When I was president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, our first step was to create a program called the Urban League Scholars that addressed the isolation, created new bonding and celebrated academic achievement through study groups, mentoring, coaching college tours, and spending time together breaking down the social pressure and isolation. Over a five-year period, we had a 100-percent graduation rate. Every one enrolled in the program got accepted into college.

The specter of racism has been hanging over our so-called “prestigious” state colleges for decades. In 1968, Metropolitan King County Council member Larry Gossett, then leader of the Black Student Union, submitted a list of demands to UW’s administrators calling for immediate hefty increases in the UW minority enrollment along with the establishment of black-studies programs. Within a year, the numbers of black undergraduates went from 150 to 465. During the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, the UW saw some of the largest increases of blacks at the university.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not just a hashtag. It is today’s reaction to being black and isolated. Alone. Again.

Sad reminders run countrywide that the undercurrent of racism is alive and well — conjuring up fear and rage and uniting blacks to the reality that we have not come very far in that race to equality. Consider:

• Trayvon Martin killed by George Zimmerman.

• Eric Garner choked to death by police for selling cigarettes.

• Renisha McBride shot to death for seeking help.

• John Crawford shot down while browsing in a department store.

It may seem harsh to throw our University of Washington and Washington State University onto the same list, but that undercurrent of rage stemming from the glacial speed in addressing racism on campus has a history of leading to rage rather than reason.

As in years past when black unity resulted in drawing a line in the sand against racism by requiring visible, better-financed and meaningful changes, it’s time students, college faculty and administrators take a page from the Garfield kids: Break down the sphere of isolation.

I was one of those few black students at the University of Washington: alone, isolated, scared to death and disconnected. Today’s black students should know: You may be the only one in your class, but you are not alone.

Look around you. You will see other talented, brilliant and beautiful black students just like you. College is still the one place where you have an opportunity to debate racism and still get your degree. The most critical thing we all need — that no one can take away — is that education. All of us suffer every time a black student decides completing college isn’t worth isolation.

Black Lives Matter is, more than ever, needed as those who protest are the new freedom fighters, refusing to chalk up our recent racist history as isolated incidents. They are the line in the sand we cannot cross if we are to be the country we profess to be.