Anahzsa Jones | Correspondent
“You always hear about Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and all of them, but you don’t really hear about Malcolm X or these different people that were just as important but maybe were not as friendly to white culture,” said William Stewart, a senior studying electrical engineering and President of the Red Poets Society.
Stewart is one of many who believe our education in black history to be lacking on several fronts, and he places the responsibility for this deficit on the shoulders of those in power, who are in the majority, and have historically been white.
For the most part, black history education begins with the slave trade and ends with the civil rights movement, hitting a few highlights along the way. These highlights often include Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and George Washington Carver, along with a few other prominent figures.
Often, the representation of these figures is inaccurate and watered down for public consumption. Whether or not this is intentional is difficult to say, but the impact of this effective ‘whitewashing’ is even harder to deny.
Dr. Jamila Simpson, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Student Services in the College of Sciences, is an adamant supporter of more in depth black history, as it was taught to her in her college years.
“I think we need more representation of what black leadership looks like, but I think we also need authentic representation of who these people actually were,” she said in response to the typical black history curriculum.
Dr. Simpson spoke about her experience and the impact it had on her when she was an undergraduate here at NC State. As the first black female to ever receive a degree in meteorology from NC State in 2000, and the only African American in her major, Dr. Simpson was no stranger to the feeling of being alone that many African American students face upon arrival. “My self esteem was very low coming from my home town. I was often the only black student in most of my classes, and I encountered racism when I got here, too,” Simpson said.
One of the instances she remembers most occurred during black history month.
“I would write African American history facts on a dry erase board on my door every day during black history month…and my RA, who was a white male, came to me and said his girlfriend, who lived in my suite, thought my board was offensive and he wanted me to stop doing it. He told me it wasn’t white people’s fault that black people hadn’t contributed to science and math in this country,” said Simpson. Clearly, this narrow view of our history can have a detrimental impact, not only on African American students but also on the perceptions of the community at large.
“Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the light bulb, but it was actually a black man who came up with the filament for the bulb…I learned that in fifth or sixth grade and that’s when I started to realize about race and the role that it plays,” said Wesley Coats, a junior studying computer science and the Vice President Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
When black history is taught in schools, it is most often the case that the accomplishments that are focused on are limited to the ones that impacted the black community. In the fields of science, or mathematics, or anything outside of strictly ‘black’ culture, the information given is scarce or missing entirely. “It’s subconscious, but we’re overcoming messages that we haven’t contributed much, especially in STEM,” said Simpson.
The limited scope of black history shown to students was the inspiration for a poem by William Stewart. The poem speaks on the sanitization of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also shines light on the issue at hand with the last line, “I am the only black king in their history books.”
“Martin Luther King was the least threatening black leader they could think of. Malcolm X’s ‘by any means necessary,’ you know, that’s scary to people who are comfortable in their own privilege,” said Stewart.
His poem, “In my name,” is a powerful example of how he decided to be part of the solution. Stewart was adamant that it was not his intention to diminish Dr. King’s legacy or the work he’s done in any way, but simply to acknowledge, simply put, “That’s not all there is to it.”
“I don’t want to speak for people whose experiences I can’t relate to,” Stewart said,” but I hope maybe I can inspire someone to use their voice, or show someone that they have a voice.”
Chauncey Bowden | Staff Writer
At the beginning of the semester Chancellor Woodson released a letter on the NC State website titled “Strengthening Campus Unity.” This letter served as a welcome to students coming back from the winter break. Chancellor Woodson began the letter in typical fashion pointing out that the university is better than ever and “experiencing unprecedented success.
He went on to say that NC State still has issues to overcome, saying, “In particular, we join campuses and communities across the country in an important national conversation about issues of race, religion, intolerance and discrimination — critical matters that in one way or another touch all of our lives.”
Woodson introduces seven initiatives designed to “advance diversity and inclusion at NC State”. These plans have the potential to have incredible influence, if they ever happen. The first initiative states that the chancellor and Provost Arden will work alongside several students, faculty and staff to get their recommendations and hear about their experiences on campus.
Chancellor Woodson says that these meetings have already been scheduled and I hope that these groups take full advantage of this opportunity and truly voice any concerns that they may have. I also hope that the students that he plans to meet with are a good representation of the needs that need to be met on our campus.
Another initiative discusses two programs that will be implemented by the Office of the Provost, the Emerging Scholar Program and the Senior Visiting Scholar Program. According to the letter these programs are “an effort to attract African-American and other underrepresented faculty to NC State.” He also stated that the Council on Undergraduate Education is evaluating ways to ensure that diversity are parts of the NC State curricula.
While I certainly agree with our Chancellor that NC State is experiencing unprecedented success, this success is certainly not always applied across the board. Our university prides itself on its think and do attitude, yet far too often there has not been enough action taken place when addressing issues surrounding race.
It is clear that Chancellor Woodson is aware of the issues pertaining to diversity on this campus. Yet, we all know that awareness is not enough in order to implement change; it is only the starting point.
Students have voiced concerns about the racial climate on campus for years. While this university continues to strive for academic excellence and a relevant space amongst our competitors Duke and Chapel Hill, our diversity initiatives often come across as ingenuine. While these efforts look great on paper, it would have been even better to have Chancellor Woodson address these plans in person at the Racial Climate Town Hall meeting.
Far too often marginalized students have carried the weight in addressing these issues, and honestly, it isn’t their job to do so. As students, our time here is short. While we may be able to start social movements within the four years that we spend here, it is hard to ensure that they continue after we are gone; this is where administration should help.
Chancellor Woodson and the administrators involved in these programs should be held accountable for making sure that these programs come into fruition. It will be nice to see their influence facilitate a healthier racial environment on campus.
Read the Chancellor’s letter here: https://leadership.ncsu.edu/about/chancellor/letters/strengthening-campus-unity/
Stephanie Tate | Managing Editor
Caught in between Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month lies the consistent appraisal of Martin Luther King Jr. Every year from his national holiday in January until the end of February, those who oppose policies that would align with Martin’s teachings resurrect his quotes to show that they do in fact believe in “equality.”
Martin is best known for a legacy of nonviolent peaceful protests that objected to the unjust treatment of African Americans in America. In the midst of painting Martin as the face of the Civil Rights Movement, we oftentimes leave out the voices and faces of others who contributed to the movement.
Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X, is one of those voices. The life and legacy of Malcolm X is scarcely taught in schools and when it is, Malcolm is illustrated as a violent antagonist to Martin. There is no denying that Malcolm and Martin were two very different men, however they had a similar goal: to obtain equal rights for African Americans.
Despite their juxtaposed positions on how to achieve this goal, the two had much respect for another. With that said, respect never stood as enough reason for the two to see eye to eye.
In a 1963 interview with Malcolm X Dr. Kenneth Clark asked Malcolm “Well, Reverend Martin Luther King preaches a doctrine of non-violent insistence upon the rights of the American Negro. What is your attitude toward this philosophy?” In response, Malcolm X remarked that “The white man pays Reverend Martin Luther King, subsidizes Reverend Martin Luther King, so that Reverend Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless.”
Remarks about Martin were not uncommon coming from Malcolm, which more than likely contributed to the idea that they were two opposite ends of a spectrum. Although Malcolm had gone on record calling Martin both a chicken wing and a fool, he also said “Dr. King wants the same thing I want–freedom!”
Towards the end of their lives, both seemed to become more moderate in their views. In his letter from Birmingham jail Martin acknowledges that the frustrations of black nationalists such as the Nation of Islam, were warranted. He refers to the black nationalists as one force and his model of peacefulness until integration as another force.
“I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist,” said Dr. King. A letter from Malcolm, recovered by the Martin Luther King Paper Project, inviting Martin to speak at a Muslim rally read “A United Front involving all Negro factions, elements, and their leaders is absolutely necessary.”
According to PBS during his visit to Selma, Malcolm visited, Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. King to inform her that “I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.”
After the death of Malcolm X in 1965 Martin apologetically sent a telegram to Betty Shabazz the wife of Malcolm. Part of the telegram read “While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”
While they disagreed on the methods to reach the destination, both Malcolm and Martin, kept freedom at the forefront of their movement. Malcolm X said in his autobiography “the goal has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violent marching, that dramatizes the brutality and the evil of the white man against defenseless blacks. In the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody’s guess which of the “extremes” in approach to the black man’s problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first — “non-violent” Dr. King, or so-called “violent” me.”
With both Martin and Malcolm being tragically assassinated at the age of thirty-nine, it would seem that they both met a fatal catastrophe. However, when looking at the activism on our campus, I can say that their movements have not met that fatal catastrophe. When looking at the amount of African American students committed to make our campus a more inclusive place I am lead to believe that regardless of whose path we take, we are slowly but surely approaching that end goal of freedom.
Undoubtedly many people have heard what happened at the University of Missouri. Whether it’s the photographs of colleges students around the United States voicing their support for the African-American student body and the abundance of the “Concerned Student 1950” hashtag. The University of Missouri, or Mizzou, is showing just how powerful black activism can be. Or is it?
While Mizzou has recently been in the spotlight for demanding the resignation of their president, Tim Wolfe, racism at the institution is nothing new. An article written by Matt Ferner and Nick Wing of the Huffington Post highlighted just a few of the highly offensive, and sometimes violent threats uttered openly and privately by White students at the University. These offenses include racial slurs towards students and professors; swastika symbols smeared on a dorm bathroom in human feces; and terrorist threats via the social media app, Yik Yak.
Even after President Tim Wolfe announced on Nov. 9 that he would be resigning, the threats made on Nov. 10 by a white male named Hunter Parks, illustrated that the University still has quite a ways to go in combating racism.
Despite this, many rejoiced at the progress made by the students at Mizzou, and celebrated their tenacity. In spite of all the joy that comes with such great strides, there is still a constant question lingering in my mind – would this success have been possible without the protests of student athletes?
Racism at Mizzou has long existed and students have long advocated for a change. From protests that directly confronted Tim Wolfe, to a hunger strike led by masters student, Jordan Butler.
Yet, it wasn’t until student athletes intentionally became a part of the protest that change actually occurred. Wolfe resigned from his position as president less than 48 hours after several African-American football players threatened to boycott their game against Brigham Young University; this game would have allegedly cost the university $1 million if it was cancelled.
It’s no surprise that sports bring money into universities. According to the Triangle Business Journal NC State allocated $70 million towards an athletic budget for the 2014-2015 school year. This figure is up $10 million from the budget two years ago. There are numerous ways NC State generates the revenue for such a budget, including a fee of $232 per student.
Such a large budget indicates just how profitable athletics are to universities, with NC State being no exception.
Business came to a near halt when approximately 30 black men decided to boycott a football game. One football game forced a president of a university to resign. Even after students blocked Tim Wolfe’s car, it wasn’t until these athletes became an active part of the struggle was he forced to resign. If it appears that I’m saying the same thing three different ways, then you’re correct.
Yes, it is incredible that this small group of men were able illustrate the power of civil disobedience. But does anyone else think that it was slap in the face to the numerous students who had been protesting for months, if not years?
Yes, these men should be applauded for using their privilege for the greater good but we must acknowledge that it is privilege nonetheless, privilege that most African-Americans do not possess.
I came across a column on Twitter that celebrated the power of the black male athlete and it is extremely problematic. The events at Mizzou seem to imply that blacks are only important to a university because of their athletic abilities and as a result are only as valuable as the revenue that they bring to schools.This is nothing more than an incredibly backhanded compliment.
The events at Mizzou are eerily reminiscent of Kanye West’s “All Falls Down” when he states, “Cause they make us hate our-self and love they wealth.That’s why shortys hollering ‘where the ballas at?’ Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack. And a white man get paid off of all of that.”
I know plenty of incredibly talented black students at NC State who don’t play a sport. These students should be regarded with the same care and concern as any student on this campus – black or white, athlete or not.
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