Black on campus: Thoughts on Blackness

Soapbox is the place to share thoughts, experiences and perspectives — from things you want to shout at the top of your lungs to those that you have only ever shared with close friends. Below are some thoughts on Blackness from Black students.

‘We don’t talk anymore’

“One time (on campus), a non-Black acquaintance said I wasn’t dark-skinned enough to be Black and proceeded to pull out his phone to show me a picture of his friend who was ‘an actual Black person.’ We don’t talk anymore.”

The Nod

“Can I give a quick tribute to The Nod? To that flash of recognition you get and give when you (finally!) see another Black person on campus or in class, the moment that declares you aren’t just a lonesome rarity here after all, and neither are they? When you’ve had a long day, or they have, or the hours have weighed down both your postures, there it is: eye contact, dawning delight, The Nod to crown it all. And yeah, yes, fine: The Nod’s really just a smile and a look and a seconds-long movement of the neck muscles if you want to get anatomical about it. But it’s nice, very, to see and be seen.”

‘This is OUR short ass, cold ass month’

“Yes it’s the shortest month. Yes it’s a cold ass month. And yes there’s not a whole lot of us here to celebrate. But somehow it still feels like a privilege to celebrate our Blackness and the excellence that we consistently exude. Simply because this is OUR short ass, cold ass month.”

‘Unique joys’

“I’m a Black African Muslim woman, a diversity campaign’s wet dream. But besides experiencing the intersections of the various axes of oppression — anti-Black racism, anti-Muslim sentiments, etc. — I also get to witness and partake in the unique joys of having this skin, this history and this faith. As Fred Moten said, to “understand how terrible the terror has been, you must also know how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of terror. And any denial of this richness is in itself an act of violence.”

‘Please allow me to change my hair in peace’

“I never thought that getting braids could be so scary. I had them my whole childhood, but detested how black they made me look as I entered in adulthood. And while I re-embraced them alongside my blackness, it’s been a month and I still hold my breath every time I see an old acquaintance. I’m glad you like my hair but I have also heard this 23 times today and 38 times yesterday. Please allow me to change my hair in peace.”

‘A new future’

“Black history month means finally focusing on Black folks and their contribution to the world. It is an opportunity for Black folks to get together around their shared history, acknowledge it and forge a new path forward as a collective. It’s an appreciation of the past in order to create a new future.”

‘Except we are ... the protagonists’

“Black History Month is what highlights Black existence, Black contributions and fills the gaps in stories we are retelling, except this time we are and will always remain the protagonists.”