Bishop: Loving Blackness

White supremacy is not just about evil people running around in white hoods overtly terrorizing communities — we have to move beyond this Boogeyman characterization to understand racism today. One must understand it as an ideology and an adaptive force that has been overt in inhumane systems such as the Native American genocide and slavery, but covert in using drug policy to warehouse blacks and Latinos. I could continue to complicate our understanding of white supremacy with a history lesson on Irish and Italian immigrants. If I really wanted to start lecturing, I would refer to it as a structure, an institution, a system of power and control. If I used this column to deconstruct the ideology, I would illustrate how Dartmouth was built on racism, participated fully in America’s racist history and without countermeasures remains a racist institution. I will now focus on blackness, as it has always been at the blunt of white supremacy. My goal is to present a counternarrative on blackness, to simply celebrate and empower it on a campus that too often marginalizes it.

My message is aimed at black students. I want to say what is not said enough, what is not espoused from the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we relate, the way we survive and the way we thrive. And the simple but profound message is that it is alright to be black at Dartmouth. In fact, blackness is a powerful tool that encourages you to be proud of who you are and to embrace the responsibility that comes when your legacy is one built by freedom fighters. Blackness teaches us to be proud of who we are and gives us a historical strategy for how to respond to a society that attempts to nigger us, or make our very being inferior. Those who came before you squared off with white supremacy, from national integration campaigns to local protests that broke down Dartmouth’s racist doors in the 1970s to allow the enrollment of black students. Black freedom fighters fought their battles so that when it was our turn, we would fight them with more strength, creativity and triumph.

I am not telling you how to be black on this campus — be black and gay, be black and a frat star (who is explicitly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic or at least the opposite of what Dartmouth portrays as a frat star). Be black with a white lover, be black with a black lover, be black and smart, be black and verbose. Be black however your heart desires because we know there is no single way. But be black and proud! Be black and remember that it connects you to a community, support team and activists. Understand that though the College was not built for us and has an almost uncompromising need to hold on to traditions that were made with us in mind — through trivializing and excluding our cultures — you own this place as much as any student and you have the benefit of your voice being so new that your willingness to express it is a radical move in itself.

Your blackness is not more weak or strong based on how many white people are around you. Your blackness does not become too much if you take a class dealing with our legacy (don’t be scared to take a class that deals with ourselves, because if you have not noticed, all our peers do). Your Dartmouth experience is not diminished if you come to the Afro-American Society, attend a party in the Cutter Shabazz basement or participate in a discussion in the Malcolm X mural room. Ignore the article in The Dartmouth about self-segregation — those writers simply need to read a book. (This is my new strategy for people who are ignorant about race. Read a book, because black people are not here to educate you!) In closing, blackness is not burdensome; it is profoundly beautiful. Blackness is not tainted; it is a powerful identity. Blackness should not be tokenized; it should be radicalized. Our blackness has strength regardless if we are from the west coast of America or the west coast of Africa. Our blackness is communal, persistent and radically alright!

Stay tuned — my blackness is about to get loud. Bishop: Loving Blackness.

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