October 3, 2017

GUEST ROOM | We Are Not a Monolith: Nuances of Blackness at Cornell

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A response to Sunspots’ “Combating White Supremacy Should Not Entail Throwing Other Black Students Under the Bus” 


I believe African/Caribbean students are taking up a lot of space on this matter. The only public discourse that I’ve seen published are from these students. As an African American whose family has been in the Americas since the start of Transatlantic slavery, my opinion is equally valid, and so I’ll share on my experiences.

The voice of African American Black students are stifled. We are labeled as “Just Black” on campus, and our Blackness is constantly called into question. There is a clear divide in the Pan-African Black community and no one wants to talk about it. The fact is, African American students are the minority of the minority community. Six percent of students on campus are of African Descent, and of that six percent, African Americans are only a minute percentage.

Furthermore, because of Cornell’s racist and discriminatory financial aid policies, most international students are wealthy because Cornell doesn’t provide financial aid to international students as easily. This is inherently classist and perpetually discriminates against poorer international students.

Many argue that “Blackness is one-dimensional and we should stop dividing ourselves because it is counterproductive to our goals… we’re all just black.” This rhetoric is dismissive and fails to acknowledge class privilege, skin tone, and other forms of privilege in our community. Things like homophobia and sexism run rampant in our community. Not all Black people experience racism and discrimination in the same way. We are not a monolith, so stop treating us as such. When I walk in a room, I’m never just black. I’m a heterosexual, able-bodied, black man from a low socioeconomic background.

I digress, but since race is the most apparent thing in society and it is the topic of discussion, I’ll speak to that.

Again, not all black people experience racism in the same way! Racism operates on three levels: individual, structural, and institutional. Everyone from the African diaspora may all experience racism on the individual level (being called the n-word and being restricted from a white frat party being only the tip of that iceberg). But international students who call another place home don’t have to deal with the ingrained institutional and structural forms of oppression in the same way American Black students do. (Housing discrimination, mandatory minimum sentencing, War on Drugs, school to prison pipeline etc.)

This is not to discredit their experiences with now postcolonial and neoliberalism in their homelands. I’m just arguing that it looks very different and we shouldn’t all be lumped together without addressing the nuances of blackness.

Lastly, BSU’s demands were completely taken out of context. In no way, shape or form were they insinuating that Cornell should admit fewer African/Caribbean students. I don’t think that admitting more American Black students means admitting fewer international students. These things are not mutually exclusive.

 

Marquan Jones is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

  • Abcd

    The notion that one is not getting into a frat party because of skin color is rather ridiculous. If you have a friend in a given house, they wont turn you around whether you’re black, yellow, or green. It’s really not that complicated.

    As for the admissions, you’re absolutely correct – these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Why not simple admit base on merit? (hint hint, look to the west) This way every man is the architect on his own fortune and there is no talk @ race.

    • Ted

      Any one who has worked in admissions over the past 50 years will tell you that there’s no such thing as “merit”–there might be one thing in your record that gives you a slight edge over the thousands of kids who look just like you on paper–but it doesn’t mean you have more “merit” than the others. Sometimes its just the luck of the draw.

  • Man with Axe

    You wrote: “Furthermore, because of Cornell’s racist and discriminatory financial aid policies, most international students are wealthy because Cornell doesn’t provide financial aid to international students as easily. This is inherently classist and perpetually discriminates against poorer international students.”

    How is it racist to provide less aid to foreign students? I presume these students are of all races and ethnicities. This seems like a boilerplate accusation of racism without any thought behind it.

    You wrote: “When I walk in a room, I’m never just black. I’m a heterosexual, able-bodied, black man from a low socioeconomic background.” This identity politics is the curse of this generation. How are people ever supposed to treat people as individuals when they think of themselves mostly as members of groups? Why can’t you just be a person walking into a room? Are you one of those black people who seeks out the couple of other black people in any gathering? If so, whom do you blame for the ways in which you experience racism?

    You mention the following as examples of structural or institutional racism (You implied earlier that they are two separate kinds of racism. Are they?): “Housing discrimination, mandatory minimum sentencing, War on Drugs, school to prison pipeline etc.” The last three have nothing to do with race. Anyone can avoid these instances of “racism” by not committing crimes or using or selling drugs, Mandatory minimum sentencing applies by definition to all criminals. It’s no one’s fault that so many criminals are black. The war on drugs applies to all drug dealers. It’s no one’s fault that so many blacks sell drugs. The school to prison pipeline is not a real thing. It is a metaphor for the fact that so many black youth do so poorly in school that they are not prepared to college or for decent jobs so they resort to crime and end up in prison. There is no actual pipeline, not even by another name.

    • Kizmet Paradigm

      IDENTITY POLITICS ONLY TAKES AN 80 IQ TO UNDERSTAND SO THATS WHY ITS SO POPULAR! ITS THE ULTIMATE SUPERFICIALITY CULT! ALL I SEE IS A REVOLVING DOOR LETTING VIOLENT BLACK CRIMINALS OUT SO THEY CAN KILL SOME MORE! HOW MANY GUYS WITH A LOOOOONG RAP SHEET HAVE BEEN IN THE NEWS AS VICTIMS OF MEAN OLD RACIST WHITE COPS? THE ANSWER IS THE VAST VAST MAJORITY! LAW AND ORDER IS RACIST TO THESE PEOPLE! THAT MAKES THEM ALL LOOK BAD! DUH?!?

  • NRA

    When you say ” As an African American whose family has been in the Americas since the start of Transatlantic slavery, my opinion is equally valid, and so I’ll share on my experiences” what you mean? How about Caribbean and Latin American Blacks? are you suggesting they have not been in the “Americas”? What you consider “AMERICAS”? how you think these population feel? You contradict your self over and over again throughout this editorial piece. I know that the demand submitted by BSU should have just mentioned African Americans when addressing the low numbers of AA studying at Cornell. Your lack of knowledge about the overall diaspora or black experience (including African American) makes you and the people who approved to publish this piece bad.

    • Kizmet Paradigm

      NUMBER ONE SHE IS LYING IF SHE THINKS SHE HAS A CLUE WHEN HER ANCESTORS CAME HERE! 100% LIE! HECK THEY COULD HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE BLACK SLAVE OWNERS OR AN ALWAYS BEEN FREE NORTHERNER! DIDNT BLACKS OWN ABOUT 25% OF SLAVES IN AMERICA?

      • NRA

        Your argument is out of context. We are not talking about the historical account you are referring about. We are talking about the historical accounts when whites owned black people to build the country we are “a part of”. Our context is examine access for an ethnicity of Blacks (African American) that built this nation with free labor. They are just asking for their fair share.

  • Kizmet Paradigm

    BUT …BUT WHITES “ARE” A MONOLITH! THATS WHAT THE AUTHOR BELIEVES!

  • Jay Wind

    One could easily make the same argument that “whites” are not monolithic, and that Cornell should have affirmative action programs for Irish Americans, Italian Americans, French Americans, and other sub-groups. Similarly, one could analyze the applicant pool based on geographic location and include applicants from the West Coast, the mid-west and the South. One could look at the religion of the applicants. One could argue to balance private school, prep school, religious school and public school applicants.

    The best route is to reject all of this micromanaging of the admissions process. One would hope that Cornell has a diverse student body and that no applicant is rejected on the basis of any of these factors. Cornell has long demonstrated that its educational environment is better if there are some minority, some women, some midwest, some farm kids, etc. at times when other Ivy League schools sought male white prep school applicants.

    All students should fight for a better undergraduate Cornell experience. If I were a student, I would fight against any proposed expansion of the Ithaca undergraduate student body (by 250) and rather argue for taking fewer undergraduate students. Cornell undergraduate resources are already spread too thin. For this reason, I would also fight any proposals to increase the number of students from X group, whatever X is.