These issues are much bigger than [the Confessions] incident and display of extreme hate. [That post] is only the tip of an iceberg […] in a sea of inequalities.
I address you today as a concerned friend, peer and student. I am concerned that we, the Black leaders on this campus, are being asked to stay invisible and complaisant. I, as the Vice President of the Black Women’s Collective, am concerned that people feel the need to strip those of us in influential positions of the little influence that we hold and worked so hard to obtain in an environment where we are the minority. Yet, I am also realizing that there are more cracks in the system than are visible to us. If we continue to go forth with resilience and steadfast persistence, then the system will start to give under its own weight of disparities and negligence. We must have faith in knowing that we are stronger than our opposition. If we are strategic in our vision and our goals, if we are collaborative–forming alliances and partnerships–and deliberate in our actions, and if we believe in the strength of our numbers and voices, then there is no other outcome than for us to succeed.
[…] I do not know about you, but I did not work this hard to have it all thrown back in my face. We must continue carrying the torch in honor of our past ancestors who fought to their graves, our present brothers and sisters who are being unjustly sent to their graves and our future generations who will continue to fight. To all of the people who are surprised that such a thing could take place at this institution, NEWSFLASH! This has been going on for years. It is bewildering to me how it has taken someone threatening the lives of Black students for the community and the administration to take matters seriously and to start the conversation. We, the Black students whose lives were in that threat, have been having this conversation since the day we stepped foot on this campus. […] We have been ready for real change in campus culture.
In the areas where support is scarce, I will not stop working to strengthen our system. When encountering racism and navigating spaces in which we are met with micro-aggressive attitudes on a regular basis, the administration is not sitting there [with us] as we painfully hold back tears and swallow frustrations out of fear of falling into the stereotype of the “Angry Black Person.” We are the ones who are directly affected and suffer most deeply. We are unable to simply close our eyes or our ears–or our hearts– and turn our backs away from the problem and pretend that it does not exist. I do not hold the privilege of being able to be oblivious, untouched or “colorblind” because I wear my Black every day of my life. And I refuse to hide that part of me, even if I could.
We have a right to be angry. Do not be fearful of showing too much emotion. Sometimes people who do not see us as human beings forget and they feel intimidated by our ability to be complex beings. Therefore, when we do express anger or frustrations, they try to villainize us and portray us as dangerous because they believe that we should not have the same rights and access to our human emotions. I am done feeling as though I need to make myself smaller or diminish all that I am, just to make someone else feel bigger or safer or validated. I do not feel sorry that people are being forced to wake up. I do not feel sorry if people’s worlds are being shaken by the realization that, no, we are not all
[…] One thing that racist people hate to hear the most is that they are racist. I must briefly reiterate what has been explained over and over again: there is no such thing as reverse racism. Yes, there can be prejudice on both ends. However, an oppressed minority groups of people are disempowered and/or disenfranchised to such an extent by those in positions of power or privilege that it is made virtually impossible for the oppressed to alter the dynamics in a way that would threaten the positionality of the oppressor. It is a learning process for all of us joining together in solidarity and acknowledging one another’s struggles.
This is the note on which I would like to continue: solidarity. The “race problem” is not Black students’ problem alone. Not only are we affected by racial tensions on campus and within our larger society, but Latina, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, Indian, Native American, and multiracial-identifying students of color also experience racial tensions and isolation in varying ways. I can only speak to the experience of walking through this world as a Black woman. Even then, I cannot be the voice of “the black experience” because there is no one image or way of categorizing blackness. Furthermore, this problem is also our allies’ and our oppressors.
[…] We cannot call ourselves allies until we do some of the actual work that it takes to dismantle systems of oppression. We, as Black students, can be allies to each other. Students in all affinity groups on campus can be allies to one another. Our White peers, too, can be allies to us. However, no one can call themselves true allies if we pick and choose when it is convenient to be so or not. Allyship should not be self-serving. Furthermore, we do not need to be saved. We need space to feel safe in our own bodies.
[…] I have watched many of my closest friends leave due to a combination of a lack of financial help or advising and feeling unwelcome and unsupported. So often, I even considered leaving. Yet, I cannot find it in my heart to abandon ship when so many people invest in, believe in and depend on me. I also believe that Mills can be an amazing place and I love being able to be in an environment with such incredible, intelligent, strong and beautiful souls. But I have come to learn that the feeling is not mutual for Black students on this campus. I will not be a passive observer, suffering as I pour myself into this institution—financially, academically, emotionally and spiritually. We should be active agents, pioneers of real change.
As I close this letter, I make a promise that, even as the system fails us in ways that we cannot begin to count, I will not fail us. We must not fail each other. Together we are stronger. Though this incident may weigh heavy on our hearts in the aftermath of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, and Jordan Davis in Florida and all of the horror stories that happen on campuses nationwide, we will not be victims. Something has to change in the system, or we will have to rewrite thwe system ourselves. I am sending all of my love, support and strength to our community. Lean on me, as I hope to lean on you. We will prevail.
This contribution is a shortened version of Joyelle Baker’s original blog post. Baker rewrote her post to be published in The Campanil‘s print issue coming out on Tuesday, March 11.
For the full blog post, go to http://themillennialvoice.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/a-letter-to-the-too-outspoken-who-still-go-unheard/.
For more related posts, check out The Campanil‘s designated web page for our ongoing protest coverage.