Celebrating Black History Month

Guess we should be glad they didn’t decide on some lynchings or something:

Walking around Albright College’s student center Tuesday afternoon was a bit like stepping back to the days before the civil rights era.

Two signs hung on a drinking fountain near the Campus Center dining hall. One was marked “White” and the other read “Colored Only.”

Similar signs were posted at two dining hall entrances – one for whites and one for everyone else.

A student committee organizing campus events for Black History Month came up with the idea to promote awareness of how far civil rights have advanced in America in the past 50 years.

Albright College (Pennsylvania) is at least 77 percent white.  I say “at least” because the stats I found also included a fair number of students listed as “non-resident aliens” and “race not listed” (which in my experience usually means white).

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7 thoughts on “Celebrating Black History Month

  1. It sounds to me like a cookie-fest: “Look how far we’ve come! Yay! Cookies all round!”

    It’s quite depressing to realise that the students in the organising committee, and the faculty who presumedly supported them, have so little understanding of what Black History Month is about.

  2. If you research diversity rates, you will see that Albright College has exceptionally high diversity compared to other colleges of its size. Diversity is something we prize and work at every day. Also, the students who organized this event are members of the African American Society who wanted to show how much things have changed. College are places where history is taught and ideas and points of view are shared. For college students this is ancient history, but it was not all that long ago. Should we forget that women and people of color didn’thave the right to vote not all that long ago? How can we commemorate the heroism of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King without understanding the context of what it truly meant?

  3. “… exceptionally high diversity compared to …” and “Diversity is something we prize and work at every day” are common empty statements mouthed by PR people in response to discussions of racism. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that type of defensive remark.

    Additionally, just because the African American Society was involved doesn’t mean it was a good idea.

    In any event, how do you propose teaching about sexism? Would the university allow exploitative pictures of naked women to be displayed? Maybe women should be required to walk among a bunch of men who are cat-calling and making obscene suggestions. That would remind them how grateful they should be if those types of events don’t occur.

    Also, I’m curious … how many faculty members are people of color? How does that tie in with past and current discrimination?

  4. Ms Marshall, Black History Month is not about celebrating how far we have come. It is about going beyond that, about increasing the general populace’s understanding of the role of black people in history.

    According to infoplease, Dr Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Negro History Week, was “disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.”

    That was at the beginning of the 20th Century. Taking people back to segregation seems to me to be yet another way of commemorating that inferior social position.

    But it doesn’t help anyone to understand what has been achieved, who achieved it and how, or anything else about black people as people. While MLK and Rosa Parks are major figures in history, they are very well known and, I believe, already figure in the history books.

    It would be nice to see some of those who don’t. How about this lady, local to your region: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadie_Tanner_Mossell_Alexander ?

    Or maybe your students could find better examples, perhaps from your college’s own history?

  5. Ms. Marshall,

    Your institution of higher learning chose to recreate outlawed forms of segregation on your campus. As the Associate Vice Principal of College Relations and Marketing, I hope that you will use the power of your position at Albright College to reflect critically on the lessons that need to be learned and applied in the future. As you strive to understand the context of what this means and what this says about your college, I suggest that you purchase multiple copies of the film Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible. For your reference, I am including this link http://www.world-trust.org/videos/visible.html

    I’m sure that you want to show leadership at the highest level in order to regain the stature to which your institution no doubt aspires. Therefore, it would be beneficial for you to champion an internal educational effort. Such an endeavor must necessarily reach throughout every level of the college — administrators, professors, instructors, counselors, and students and continue throughout the year. I hope to see articles in the near future that highlight articles and news stories that feature efforts to make whiteness and white privilege visible on your campus. http://www.albright.edu

  6. FYI – Ms. Marshall replied to my email with a longer version of her post here. No acknowledgement of the learning opportunity that she and her administrative colleagues are squandering.

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