Monthly Archives: February 2011

An addition to the list of things I really can’t stand…

The malicious invasion of privacy at the hands of someone you considered a friend. Not necessarily even a particularly close friend; even just someone you thought you were cool with.
Princeton can be so difficult when you’re a minority in every way. When your entire adjustment process consists of how to stop feeling so conspicuously different whenever you walk into a room. Not everyone–in fact, I would argue that perhaps not even the majority–of such people ever learn how to blaze an appropriate path between self-segregation and self-denying-integration, how to navigate Princeton’s cultural landscape in ways that leave them feeling truly happy and fulfilled. I have always considered my friend R to be one of the few that has done this successfully. I have always looked up to him as an example of what I want my experience here to be like: breaking down the posts of the fence separating social spheres, being an example of what it means to embrace diversity without neglecting to take time for solidarity and brotherhood. 
I suppose “They” were right when they said the grass is always greener on the other side, though. Maybe he never actually broke any posts down to make a doorway; maybe he’s been trapped on this fence for years, never really getting a foot on the ground on either side. Maybe I am too?
What are you supposed to do when you dedicate your life and heart and soul to an institution and your efforts go systematically unrecognized? What do you do when you construct your life around creating a family out of people you’ve met only recently, embrace a new identity regardless of its problematic history (and semi-isolate yourself from your brothers in so doing), only to get all the love you’ve poured into this thing thrown back in your face by a few members of the family you’ve worked so hard to be an integral part of? This isn’t what he was working for. This is not what WE are working for. Regardless of sobriety levels, disrespect is disrespect. Banter is not cute when it is no longer immediately recognizable as playful. Time, love, dedication, sacrifice…these things are too precious to have thrown back at us. 
We are still waiting for the day when the world–when even our friends in the world–recognize that one can be intellectually interested in something without identifying with it; or even that a truly open and spiritually connected human being should be able to identify with the emotions and difficulties of any other human being, by virtue of nothing more than their shared human experience. We are still waiting for tolerance. We are still waiting for respect. We fight for this institution every day, in every possible way…when will it stop fighting us? How can I reconcile my love for this institution with the raw…hurt, anger, and downright betrayal I feel on his behalf? How do I show that I stand with him without marginalizing myself within this family I love so much? Should I even try to keep him from disowning us? Is there any reason to?

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Thoughts from the Black Solidarity Conference

What I scribbled down during two particularly hard to sit through panels:
I hate when ppl interchange race and culture. Blackness in this country is inherently multicultural. Some of us were not raised by black communities. A growing percentage of Caribbean or African individuals are grouped with multigenerational African-Americans, and how does that interact with culture? Their culture is linguistic, is international, is full of persons who look and sound and think like them. They are from somewhere they don’t want to lose. I can only trace my family back as far as Savannah, Georgia. What does that do to black “culture”? How do we cross those ties to present a unified front, and do we even want to? I like rock better than hip-hop, under most circumstances. I did not know what it meant to dream of fish. My blackness is an identity, but rarely stems from a cultural framework.

 [later]

 I don’t know why I keep coming to this conference. I can’t reconcile my conflicting understandings of what solidarity amongst black peoples with my own personal strivings and the characteristics of my soul. I go to these lectures and participate in these discussions, but I…I never feel like they’re talking to/about me. I don’t like saying this; in fact, it hurts me to say this, but I don’t really feel “black enough” to be here–not by the normative (and frankly, quite stereotypical) definition of blackness being presented. So many people equate race with culture, race with class, race with mindsets, race with academic interests…black peoples are amongst the most multifaceted, diverse peoples on the face of the planet. There is no way to group multigenerational (my-ancestors-were-slaves-and-slavemasters-on-both-sides-of-my-family) black Americans with recent African- or Caribbean immigrants from a cultural perspective; there is increasingly little room to group even MAAs by culture when you factor in things like class and educational attainment. You are isolating huge pockets of black peoples by equating blackness with hip-hop or the South or underclass values. You are dividing us by talking about giving back to the black communities we came from, because we do not all come from such communities. Sometimes I feel like, while I identify as a black person, not all black people would even consider identifying with me, because through multigenerational oppression and internalization of racist interpretations, the masses of black peoples have stopped associating blackness with school, with the Ivy League, with graduate education, with the academy and the professoriate class. I’m rambling here, but what I’m trying to say is sometimes groups of black people make me feel like as much of an outsider–if not more–than people I’m supposedly not supposed to have anything in common with. Princeton is my first black community. How does that let me fit into “solidarity”? Why does being here make me wonder what the fuck I’m doing here? How can we celebrate diversity in solidarity–the classic sociologist Emile Durkheim says that social solidarity, in an organic and productive sense, can arise only out of diversity–painting a monotone portrait of black collegiate America as is presented at this conference does violence to the concept of solidarity. It makes me feel nothing but excluded, and even worse, it makes me think that whoever is in charge of our togetherness hasn’t even considered me.