An informal dialogue held Wednesday night offered students a comfortable place to share their thoughts on how recent events on campus affected one’s Black and African identities. The space also gave way to discussions about the relevance of being Black African and Black American at the University during a contentious time.
LSA senior Jacklyn Thomas, co-president of the African Student Association, established ground rules at the event, telling participants to watch their speaking time, keep what was said in the room and to attack the idea, not the person. Thomas then refreshed the group on the vandalism that had occurred in the same building where the ASA meeting was taking place, West Quad.
She also provided background on other racist events that have afflicted the University’s campus recently. She posed an introductory question, asking participants to share their experiences on campus related to race and nationality, and then sat down to relax the atmosphere of the room.
Though students shared different perspectives, a commonly expressed concern was that African students felt as if they had to prove themselves more than their peers.
“I’m here alone, I have to prove my worth, I have to show the others how competent I am and constantly do that,” said Business sophomore Temisan Hambraeus.
Though responses to the racism on campus abound, the designated theme of ASA’s dialogue focused on the divide between Black Americans and African Americans. Engineering freshman Jeremy Atuobi addressed common stereotyping he faces as an African student at the University.
“I just feel like we have to embrace each other’s identities because there’s a lot of misconceptions on both parts,” Atuobi said. “A lot of Africans buy into the rhetoric and the narrative that African Americans are savages and shoot each other up. A lot of African Americans believe the narrative that we’re savages that live in huts and stuff like that. And I think it’s all about embracing identity.”
Though these perspectives were divisive, Thomas stressed the importance of the dialogues.
“Understand that there are misunderstandings between distinct communities rather than a divide and this was trying bridge the gap,” Thomas said.
Recently, Atuboi said small patriotic gestures like flying an American flag or chanting “USA.” have been tied to racism. He unpacked this idea, arguing patriotism can quickly become closely tied with racism. It is a common trend seen in social justice discourse, as writers point out pro-American statements tend to be from white speakers and ignore Black and brown lives.
“I feel like a lot of these pro-American patriotic people stand up in front of audiences and yell, ‘If you don’t think this is the greatest country in the world you should leave,’” Atuobi said.
Patriotism as disguised racism is a phenomenon that has gained momentum since President Donald Trump took office, Atuobi said. He explained how it felt to be on the receiving end of this form of racism.
“So I feel like it’s all about embracing identity and hearing each other out because here in America a lot of people are prideful of just the American identity and that sort of overshadows other people’s cultures and other people’s experiences. And especially as an African I feel that way all the time,” Atuobi said.
According to Thomas, the country is seeing new forms of racism presenting itself every day, with many ignoring the country’s past.
“‘Blind patriotism’ means standing behind your country no matter what they do, but the U.S. has a history of wrongdoing against people of color,” Thomas said.