I hadn’t heard, until today, about the college president who hosted an event for black students that included cotton decorations and collard greens… but, I’m not surprised.
A couple years back, I wrote a satirical piece about a museum that tried to make black students feel more “welcome,” as Michelle Obama recommended. (Yes, she actually encouraged businesses to “welcome” more black individuals.)
Can you imagine how that would sound?
Tour Guide: (*Big smile) WELCOME BLACK PEOPLE!!!! And, of course, welcome to the rest of you, too. We’re glad everyone is here. But we are especially glad to see the kids we wouldn’t normally see in a cultured place like this! (*to a black male in the group) I assume, young sir, that you’re here for Free Black Admission Day?
Black Male: Actually, I’ve been buying my own student pass every season for three years now…
Tour Guide: Really?! Well, that’s okay! You can still pick up your complimentary “I’m Welcome at the Museum” T-shirt before you leave…
That would be ridiculous, right?
But that’s what happens when businesses and schools and the culture in general all begin focusing on something as petty and impossible as making ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR “feel” a certain way.
Eventually, the focus on diversity must turn ridiculous. It’s inevitable.
That’s because differences of opinion have far more to do with individual personalities, family values, and education than they do with skin color. This means (SHOCKINGLY!) that not all black people think the same way.
Thus, when businesses and schools focus on making “black people” feel heard and validated and welcome, it ends up being patronizing instead. That’s why identity politics ends up feeding the stereotypes it claims to be fixing. Always! (Click on the underlined words to read more about how that happens.)
At the end of my satire piece, the tour guide yells out, “Hey, what if we do a promotional deal where you can get a free bucket of fried chicken?” (And, of course, the patrons begin to mutter and leave.) So, she tries again:
“I can throw in a grape soda! We just want you to feel welcome!”
And THAT’S what the president of Libscomb college was trying to do with his collard greens and cotton theme.
But what else was he supposed to do?
From all sides, he is being pressured to MAKE certain groups feel a certain way…not based on their shared values and ideas, but based on their skin color alone.
Make all black students feel included.
Make all black students feel heard.
Don’t let any black students feel offended.
Um…that’s only possible if all black students think the same.
The “Cotton-and-Collard-Green Debacle” was brought to my attention when someone shared this student’s post, and I almost went cross-eyed reading all of her contradictions.
“People at Lipscomb are ignorant of the feelings, thoughts, and culture of black lives…
“I am only one black person among millions, and I DO NOT represent everyone.”
(How can people be less ignorant of the feelings, thoughts, and culture of black lives, if all black people are different? Answer: They can’t! They will ALWAYS be ignorant. For the same reason, people at Lipscomb are ALSO ignorant of the feelings, thoughts, and culture of white lives…unless they know every, single white person in the world intimately.)
Or how about these quotes:
“These students who are apart of your body are hurting… They’re hurting because people on this campus don’t listen to them.”
“…there are white students out there claiming that their black and white peers who are hurt are being over sensitive… I want you to reevaluate why you think you are allowed to have that opinion on a matter that you can’t ever truly understand…?”
If people get hurt when they’re not listened to, then I’d like to announce formally how much I’m hurting, too!
Now, why does this student think she’s allowed to have her opinion on a matter she can’t ever truly understand? (That is, she’ll never understand what it’s like to be a white student and told–point blank–that her opinion doesn’t matter as much as an offended black person’s.)
The answer, of course, is that ALL OF US are “allowed” to have opinions as individuals, because all of us have different personalities and upbringings that affect our perspectives.
This student is allowed to believe that anyone who is “hurt” automatically gets the microphone.
She’s still wrong. But she’s “allowed” to have an opinion, just like everyone else.
Unfortunately, she gets tripped up when she keeps trying to bring whiteness and blackness into the mix.
Making somebody’s complaints and sensitivities RACE-BASED isn’t just wrong–it’s dead wrong.
It’s condescending and patronizing to make skin color a basis for listening to a person.
Now, I’m going to get a snack…can I bring anyone a grape soda?