Black Student Union event highlights the experiences of black faculty and students at Westmont
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We have inherited stereotypes that were created hundreds of years ago, caricatures of black people that were neither multi-faceted nor human.” This past week on February 23, the Black Student Union (BSU) hosted 2%, an event where a panel of black Westmont students and Professor Kya Mangrum answered questions that were meant to show students a different perspective from ones that they are used to.
The quote above comes from Professor Mangrum of the English department. She is one of three black faculty at Westmont. Mangrum said, “I think there is an emotional toll on students when they are confronted with information about our country that differs so much from what they have always known. It’s challenging because students are placed in a position where they have to reconcile the disparities between what they have always believed and what they are learning in class.”
Our country has been through so much conflict that many choose to ignore, and even though reconciliations have been made since slavery and segregation, there is still so much to overcome. While sitting on the panel, Luvuyo Magwaza talked about how sometimes students say, “Why are you bringing up racism, hasn’t it passed?” His response was, “When I complain, don’t be ignorant, but learn that we still have a ways to go.”
One of the ways we have to grow is through overcoming stereotypes. Chisondi Warioba, one of the student panelists, pointed out that one common stereotype is, “If you’re black, you’re not smart.” He reminisced upon high school where one of his AP teachers said, “Are you supposed to be here?” on the first day of class. Warioba was the only black student in the class, and since then self doubts have been in the back of his mind.
Another stereotype is how people believe that “black success stories are an anomaly” according to Jonathan Lee. When a black person succeeds people believe, “It’s something for your company’s front page.” He concluded with, “I don’t represent the entire black population.”
Jared Harper brought up another point when he said, “I’m not the black you want me to be.” Meaning, people expect black people to dance a certain way, listen to rap, to be Democrats, and to get mad when comments are made. Harper continued by saying, “When I do speak my mind, suddenly you’re not my friend?” When asked what Westmont students can do to learn and be better, Harper responded, “See color.”
Miah Williams, a second year and co-leader of BSU, expressed her frustration when she said, “Don’t diminish our own stories. When you try to relate, you take away from our experience. Don’t feel like you have to relate to our stories or say something, maybe just listen.” 2% provided a platform for black students to express their personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions in a manner that created a safe space for conversations afterwards.