Black History Month

By Jade Johnson and Angelina Momanyi

Break It Down: Dismantling Racism and Promoting Difference. The theme of Macalester’s 2010 Black History Month came out of frustrations we’ve experienced here at Mac. Incidents this past semester, most visibly the hate speech at the Grate, highlighted an atmosphere at Macalester that many chose to ignore- an atmosphere that many have the choice to ignore. We are in a very liberal environment that often imagines itself to be in a vacuum, free of racism. The hate speech incidents automatically inspired a defensive response: “Who came to our campus and did this?” rather than an introspective one: “What makes Macalester the kind of place where this can happen?” We want to name the racism that we feel here and think about ways of dealing with it on this campus, without assuming the entire burden of a solution for someone’s hatred.We chose Black History Month as a vehicle for our efforts to address these issues because it is often a time that is minimized by those who do not understand it. You may be familiar with some silly but common questions like “Well why don’t we have a White history month?” and “Isn’t Black History Month just for Black people?” In order to partake in a month without such questions, we believe that we must ask ourselves as Mac students “Why is it important specifically to have Black students on this campus?” To be clear, we are not asking how non-Black students will benefit from the presence of Black students, but rather what Macalester would be like without any.

We don’t want to relegate Black history to 28 days, but a structured time lets us reflect communally on the achievements of Black people, think about what Blackness is, and consider how we interact with Black people and Blackness. If we do see the importance of having Black students on this campus, how do we ensure that Macalester supports the Black community and that Mac is not an anti-Black space? If we as a community decide that including Black students is one of our goals, what needs to change?

As we are a community of many nations and ethnicities, we will focus on promoting difference within the Black community across the Diaspora. We want to dispel the myth of one Blackness and share our differences with one another to appreciate each other more fully. Hopefully this sharing will play a part in dismantling racism. We look forward to hearing from you in the conversation.

Jade Johnson ’12 can be reached at [email protected] Angelina Momanyi ’12 can be reached at [email protected]