America makes it hard for people of color to have role models. Our leaders not only face systematic murder, but surrender their legacy to our various oppressors. Speaking of my experience, I never learned about Fidel Castro or the Black Panthers in school. When they were briefly mentioned it was their particular stance on violence which kept them from being our heroes. Ironically, we were absorbed in the American identity; we being offspring of those folks who continue to be discriminated against. As young Americans we risk our membership as we consider “terrorist” role models.
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April 29th marked the 20th anniversary of the LA rebellion, a response to decades of police brutality that culminated in the video tapped beating of Rodney King and a not guilty verdict for the offending officers. VH1 did a very good documentary of the rebellion and the role of Hip-Hop called Uprising: Hip Hop and The LA Riots, which can be viewed in it’s entirety online.
Although I was rather unceremoniously catapulted from it, I occasionally hear stirrings in the Ivory Tower. And sometimes those goings-on warrant a drivel-laced comment from me. Late last week, Brainstorm, one of the blogs on The Chronicle of Higher Education website, ran a response to the its own feature on some members of Northwestern University’s first class of black studies Ph.D students. The article highlighted a diverse cohort of junior scholars, many of them black women, and their dissertation projects. Two weeks later, Brainstorm blogger, Naomi Schafer Riley wrote a supremely uninformed, and frankly racist, polemic not simply against the article and those featured in it, but the very existence of black studies programs. In the imaginatively titled, “The Most Persuasive Case For Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations,” Riley writes with such hubris, one envisions her throwing up in her mouth a little as she sat at her computer typing her argument:
If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.
This is wrong. And easily refutable.
Affirmative Action is soon to be challenged once again, and I find the debate around it particularly troubling. Not necessarily because of the political implications surrounding the debate, but because it begins to expose just how little people understand the complexities of Race in this country. The conversation around Affirmative Action usually begins to devolve into questions of white entitlement, the idea of our country being a meritocracy (we really need to get over that), and sometimes you just get some harsh and prejudiced crap that materializes in the anonymity of Internet comments.
But I am not here to debate the validity of Affirmative Action, but rather what I think the re-emergence of the debate symbolizes. Essentially, the way we talk about race in this country is starting to be destabilized, and it’s time that we shift up our game plan. Back in 2008, if you’ll recall, we got us a Black president—and that launched into a discussion of “are we ‘post-racial’?,” and all the academics and all the kings’ men—raised a defiant and distinct “NO,” and went about their daily business.
But I think we missed a crucial opportunity to engage in an important discussion.
Urban schools districts are frequently associated with the idea of failure. These schools, which are nestled in the center of large cities across the United States, are perpetually labeled as unsuccessful institutions. The images of failure take many forms. The most problematic image is when people think of urban schools as places where young students are failing because they have “no home training” or a lack of values. Many conservatives and neo-liberalist try to attack the values systems, culture, and character of black communities. These same individuals simultaneously ignore the roots of this failure, which are the larger systemic barriers, often intentionally put in place to prohibit communities of color from achieving.
I spent the past weekend in Georgia, Macon to be exact. It was my first real experience being down in the South (besides being stuck in the Atlanta airport for 3 hours) and one I will honestly never forget. Of course the high 80 degree weather kept me smiling the whole weekend, although it couldn’t last. But what really struck me about this particular vacation weekend was the soul food.
The lack of diversity in hockey is no secret. Joel Ward, a Canadian of Bajan descent, is one of approximately 18 Black players in the NHL. His name has been in the news lately, not because he is helping his team advance through the NHL playoffs but because of the racist backlash he has received for doing so. After scoring a series-winning goal in round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Joel Ward was subjected to a litany of racist tweets from Boston Bruins fans who were obviously upset about their team’s first round loss.
By no means do I believe this type of reaction is limited to Boston Bruins fans. It was in Canada that a fan threw a banana at Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds. No matter where the racism is carried out, there is no place for it in sports (no place for it in society at all).
As I embark on a career in broadcast journalism, I have to admit my fears. My fear is not the hideously low pay coupled with the brutal hours. Nor is it the fact that I may get a masters’ degree in something that will prove to never be worth the money. My fear is that I will be broadcasting to an audience that may not want to watch me simply because I’m black or a female or seemingly LGBTQ. How can someone be seemingly LGBTQ? Well, it starts with being an opinionated woman that refuses to show her breasts on the news. If you haven’t noticed, everyone from Oprah to U.S. Secretary of State has been accused of being homosexual even when they clearly say they are not. Now, there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, but there is something wrong with the perception that an independent woman must be gay. This had led me to one conclusion, that I might as well be gay.