It’s February again. Perhaps the most poignant Black History Month of our lives. All of us have witnessed and been active participants in the historic election of Barack Obama as the first Black President.
We, the Black Women’s Collective of Mills College, have been asked to share our thoughts on this monumental Black History Month.
Excitedly we talk over, to, and through each other, as our voices bounce around the Solidarity Lounge. It’s this same scene every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
“Just because Obama is president does not mean racism no longer exists!”
This is the first and most impassioned response. Many heads in the circle nod and affirm with “yes’s” and “thank you’s”.
This is not church. Here we worship our common understanding, our intelligence, our desires for change, our biting humor, our strength as a group of women who identify as Black.
Support for the first claim about a racist America begins to surface. A member comments on how the election was seen by many as evidence of how far we have come from the times when a black man could not have been considered for president. A time when black people were enslaved, beaten, and lynched because they were black.
The brutal killing of Oscar Grant is evidence that those times are not behind us; that racism still very much pervades our everyday experience. Members contribute to the conversation that Oscar Grant’s death was a reminder that the work is far from over.
Our society still breeds a mentality that assumes a black man to be a criminal, and reacts by shooting him in the back while he is restrained.
Another member brings up that the Mills community seemed to pay little or no attention to the crime.
“It seems like many people did not know what happened or gave it proper consideration. It’s up to us then to demonstrate its importance.”
This is a current issue not only because it recently happened, but because it reflects a larger problem.
The consensus is that from Obama to Oscar Grant, our participation in black history includes acknowledging the successes as well as the failures and contradictions.
We need to examine how we advocate across racial lines for equality on a national level but not in our local community.
The group addresses the misconception that has been swirling since the election that somehow the steps we’ve taken forward negate the steps that remain to be taken.
– Rebecca Frank,
senior and BWC Representative