As Georgetown works to reconcile its legacy of slavery, race has again come to the forefront of conversation about our institution. While the nuances of this dialogue are complex, we must seriously examine how race forges our Georgetown experience.
However, this much-needed conversation is often hindered by the pervasive black-white binary at Georgetown that enforces stereotypes of black students, impedes the black community from attaining intra-race solidarity over its unique struggles and neglects the narratives of non-black students of color. We need honest discourse that transcends this binary if we want to improve the experiences of students of color at Georgetown.
For both of us, being students of color at Georgetown sometimes means prolonged periods of exasperation. At Georgetown, frustration within the black community specifically most often arises from the barrage of microaggressions and the pervasive possibility of being the sole black voice in any given space on campus.
It is the anger of listening to non-black students say the n-word in their favorite songs and having to stay silent to avoid being labeled the “angry black person.” It is the irritation of being told, “I always thought you were here to play sports.” It is the burden of feeling like you represent your whole race during discussions on race-related topics. It is the pain that cuts deeply when someone suggests that we only got into Georgetown because of affirmative action, invalidating our often extraordinary struggles to make it to higher education. These experiences are, unfortunately, the reality for black students; to break the black-white binary and have a substantial discussion on race at Georgetown, experiences like these must be validated by all Georgetown students, regardless of race.
Still, we often forget that non-black students of color must be active in the conversation surrounding race. For instance, because of the persistent black-white binary, events on campus geared toward people of color in general have typically turned into forums for black students. This pattern only serves to deter non-black students of color from attending these events, as they know they might be the only one in the room. It not only alienates the voices of non-black students of color but also pressures these students to talk only about issues facing the black community to feel included in the conversation.
Additionally, non-black and multiracial students of color face challenges that stem from their own cultural backgrounds. For example, many of these students lack a space on campus that reaffirms the value of their own cultural heritage in the Georgetown community; while endeavors like La Casa Latina are a step forward, there is much work to be done to ensure representation of other cultures.
Moreover, the absence of these spaces makes it difficult to foster and fortify community. These students may also feel as if their unique experiences and struggles are not truly examined at Georgetown; speakers who look like them are rarely present at on-campus events and, when they are, rarely engage with the distinct narratives that involve the diversity of non-black students of color.
We must take advantage of opportunities to engage in cross-race dialogue to establish intersectionality and build support among minority communities. For example, the Black House was initially established as a forum for black students in 1972, but it has since evolved into a safe space for students of all cultures. La Casa Latina emerged from the desire of Latinx students to create their own space, separate and autonomous from the Black House. Yet this space originated not only to disrupt the racial binary but also because its founders saw the power the Black House had in fostering a positive social climate for students of color: For example, many other student organizations including the Caribbean Culture Circle and Muslim Student Association contributed to the cultivation of La Casa Latina. These are the types of successes that can be achieved when dialogue transcends the racial binary.
Black students must actively strive to defeat the black-white binary by being more inclusive in their rhetoric and actions. Still, non-black students of color must also reach out to the black community to build solidarity. These communities have at times perpetuated anti-blackness, whether by claiming the ability to say the n-word or by standing as allies only at convenient moments while primarily distancing themselves from the black community.
Moreover, nearly all of us have abdicated our responsibility to offer support and solidarity with Native Americans. We must ensure that this community is able to access the same resources, networks of support and safe spaces as other groups on campus. If we neglect one community, our foundation for racial intersectionality is predicated on hypocrisy.
We as students of color should collectively acknowledge a history that has hindered all of us. Ultimately, when we fail to recognize the issues that other minority groups face, we pit these communities against one another for attention, representation, validation and remuneration, and this competition only entrenches a racial binary that harms all students of color.
Hashwinder Singh and Khendrick Beausoleil are sophomores in the College. Minority Report appears every other Friday.