Do you know what perforative action is? I do. This community oozes it. I’m talking about the whitehead on a teenager’s forehead kind of oozing. Yeah, you’re already uncomfortable reading this. Sit tight, because it gets worse from here. Grab a blanket, maybe some snacks and coffee. I mean, that’s my hope that you’d do that. I’d hope that you scan this email and go on with your day and continue to bury our [the black community’s] cries for help. I’d hope that you read it and send it off to C&E [Community and Equity], because why would we get a direct answer from anyone that we direct our needs towards? You know what would surprise me though? I’d be surprised if instead of curling up in front of the fireplace and scrolling off because it’s too much text, you sat at a desk and wrote some notes from what I’m about to lay out. I’d be surprised if I got a response from someone that I haven’t heard from already. (Sound familiar?) I’d be surprised if for once I don’t get blown off with, “Your words don’t go unnoticed”…and then they [my words] do. I like surprises. I don’t like writing emails like this to continually get the easiest message across. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but again, I like surprises.
Sharpen your eyes; tune your ears, so you know what you see; understand what you hear.
Performative activism! Let’s talk about that. To intensify my lack of formality, I like to say slacktivism. When I see that term, I think about one of the top three values I hold near to myself: practice what you preach. Since this is a school, we’ll think about it like we’re in class. You make a claim, you back it up with textual evidence. You craft an email to the community standing in solidarity with black people across the nation, you back that up with your CONTINUAL response to our CONTINUAL oppression. What happened to the second part of that sentence? What was the thinking behind hanging the Black Lives Matter flag in the Stu-Fac…and then doing literally nothing else for Black History Month?
I’ll take this moment to thank the people that have helped thus far. Here’s another one of my close values: the little things are the biggest. Whatever you’ve done to help, has helped. I thank you for that. Keep in mind: we’re not finished. As long as you’re able, keep giving. Don’t worry about doing or saying the wrong thing. If you’re really good at this, you won’t get defensive when we say something is wrong, you take our criticism seriously, and act on it. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Another important thing about this whole “slacktivism” thing is that when you say one thing on one particular day and then nothing else, we see that and it hurts us. How can we trust you when we can’t turn to you for support in a time where, more than ever, we need justice? I can’t love this community like I want to when the bottom line isn’t established. To quote our own mission statement, “…diverse and striving for equity…” Keep. That. Same. Energy.
Let me build on that. “…diverse and striving for equity…” Since everything is based on shock value for your attention to be given to these issues, I’ll talk about my perspective. Someone I know and love told me recently that I’m strong and I hold up the world for so many people. I appreciated that, but I see why that was said. There’s a reason for that.
As a black man living in this country, it’s essentially my duty to do that for my black brothers, sisters, and siblings. Notice my terminology. Black man. I’m 16. I’m a teenager, a kid. Not a man. I’ve been born into a time where I don’t get to be a kid. I have to step up and mature quicker than everyone else. I can’t be defenseless, because that will cost me my life. I can’t fail my community, because that will cost me my life. The SYSTEM (because there is a system to racism and I’m sick of people refusing that) is built so that we don’t win. I have to fight to make a way for us to win, daily.
The thing is, that makes me tired. I can hold up this world, but I’m so tired. I’m more than happy to be someone for my people to come to to lean on when they need it. That’s also something that I have to do. I can’t do it alone. So, when I hear that we lose faculty of color and have less representation, that makes my skin crawl. Not only do my peers have less support, but I also lose support when I need someone to hold me. I can count how many faculty members of color we have on two hands. I’m a junior. Counting on hands is for my six year old sister.
I could go on and on, and that isn’t good. All I ask is for the black cloud of ambiguity to disappear. Help us. The silence tells us you don’t support, and if you do you’re doing a terrible job displaying that because you’re not acting. Push harder to get more people that look like me and understand me on the payroll. Take the DO [Diversity Office] out of the basement and make it look like something to be proud of, because fellowship between students of color is something to be proud of. If it’s any good, you already use us as your poster children for admissions, so a whole space dedicated to us would do wonders, I promise you. Shift curriculums so we have better opportunities to learn about our history and excellence. MLK Day celebrates black people. We complain about this every year so how is this hard? If we’re not gonna take the day off like everyone else, give it a melanin booster shot. Learning workshops, sharing culture. Let us know what is happening because this lack of communication is hurting us. If you want the best for us, want us to stay, and send our kids to an incredible institution, all I ask is to take our side and start somewhere with bettering support for our students of color, specifically our black community.
With anticipation for change in our beloved community,