Black History Month, which was officially recognized in the 1970s, is not only a celebration of people and events throughout Black history, but it is also a reminder of the freedom now held by those in the Pan-African diaspora. An accomplishment I feel may be taken for granted. In our modern institutional settings, where Black contributions are oftentimes overlooked, the month of February provides us with an important reminder of where we have come from, and what we can achieve. But what does the view of Black excellence look like from an ivory tower? Cornell University does have a historic commitment to diversity, which is in tune with its mission, “any person … any study,” created during the founding of the University.
“I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain’t never been seen by this generation.”
—Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (1906-1982)
As a lifelong active Cornell alumnus who attended the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference, I have been following The Sun’s coverage and op-ed pieces about Paul Blanchard ’52, the alumnus who gave an acceptance speech that included a description of Satchel Paige as a Negro Baseball League pitcher. The Sun’s “Mind the Gap” editorial called for “preventative measures” to avoid a recurrence of an alumni event offending student guests. Sun columnists Laura DeMassa ’21 and Canaan Delgado ’21 called for “disrupting the structural manifestations of discrimination” within Cornell’s alumni organizations. Cornell Alumni Affairs will convene a task force “of students, alumni and staff in response to the incident to ‘develop productive new ways for Cornell’s different generations to work together with even more mutual respect and understanding,’” The Sun reported.
Prior to coming to the United States for university, I regarded the American Dream as a far-fetched ideal that had little to do with my personal life. Taking part in Ellis Island role-play simulations in middle school and reading about Willy Loman’s despairs in Death of a Salesman made me aware of the disillusionment associated with the so-called land of opportunity. While I was able to appreciate the sentiments and discussions that revolved around this ideology that has shaped much of the U.S., I saw it as a distant concept as a non-immigrant foreign student expecting to leave the country after my student visa expires. But over the past two and a half years, I, too, have developed my own American Dream. Lively discussions across campus about social mobility and success have ignited a desire to work hard to improve my circumstances, who I am and who I strive to become.
Dolce and Gabbana is over. This was the message sent by the Chinese after a 24-hour social media whirlwind that resulted in public boycotts by Chinese celebrities, videos of Chinese fans and consumers burning D&G garments and ultimately, the cancellation of the brand’s Shanghai fashion show by the Shanghai Bureau of Cultural Affairs. All of this was in retaliation to Stefano Gabbana, designer and namesake of the Italian luxury fashion house, and his racist exchanges via Instagram in argument over blatantly racist advertisements for the D&G Shanghai fashion show. The advertisements are best described as a corporate “ni hao” catcall: unsettling, racist and rooted in a lazy ignorance, featuring a Chinese model who embodies the archaic caricature of a submissive and silent East Asian woman, giggling as she struggles to eat Italian foods with chopsticks. The discomfort is furthered as the Chinese game show host voiceover, whose mispronunciation of Dolce and Gabbana is emphasized as an element of “kitsch,” expounds condescending rhetoric that in direct translation varies from “use those two little sticks to eat the pizza” to “that’s too big for you to handle.”
These advertisements resulted in an immediate outcry and an Instagram DM showdown between Instagram user Michaela Tronova and Stefano Gabbana himself, where it was made clear that Gabbana was a racist as he issued tired insults such as “dog-eater” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” The Instagram account Diet Prada (@diet_prada), renowned for calling out fashion copycats, publicized these exchanges, inciting an outrage that swept across social media platforms. What followed was what felt like a testament to the power of the Chinese, a power that Gabbana had underestimated, forcing D&G to abandon its show and issue a half-hearted video apology.
The events reported earlier tonight by The Sun are incredibly disturbing and merit immediate and comprehensive action by the University and the Interfraternity Council. Early Friday morning, a black Cornell student told The Sun he was verbally and then physically assaulted outside of his residence after attempting to break up a fight around 1 a.m. The student, who was struck repeatedly in the face, was hospitalized.