Only days ago I reported on a student protest that resulted in UC Santa Cruz capitulating to demands for certain “people of color” to gain access to their very own housing separate from other races, but only after occupying the campus administration building and refusing to leave until their demands were met, and how it seems Harvard is following suit in the disturbing trend of race-based segregation on campuses.
Harvard University student organizers have, in lieu of attending the typical commencement ceremony which includes all students, formed the very first “Black Commencement 2017” event. As you likely deduce from the title, this event is meant to celebrate the “unique struggles” of black students exclusively and will feature speeches by only black students, alumni and administrators.
Two days before Courtney Woods dresses in a cap and gown for Harvard’s traditional commencement, she will don a stole made of African kente cloth and address the crowd at a somewhat different event: a graduation ceremony for black students.
Student organizers said the event, called Black Commencement 2017, is the first university-wide ceremony for black students at Harvard and is designed to celebrate their unique struggles and achievements at an elite institution that has been grappling with its historic ties to slavery.
More than 170 students and 530 guests have signed up to attend the ceremony, which will be held May 23 at Holmes Field, near the Harvard Law School campus. The event will feature speeches by black students, alumni, and administrators.
“I can only imagine how special I will feel when I walk across that stage and be able to honor my identity and my struggle at Harvard,” said Woods, who is completing a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Education. “I know this is exactly what students like me need to be inspired as we leave this place as emerging global leaders.”
Struggle at Harvard? I would imagine the very fact that you are attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country, a opportunity granting limitless job opportunities and afforded to a very small percentage of hopeful students, would mean that you have overcome the struggles of life that many still endure on a daily basis.
Woods said the black graduation ceremony will recognize that history, as well as the challenges that black students face today, including what she called a lack of social, emotional, and academic support. In 2015, 5 percent of the 7,595 degrees that Harvard awarded went to black students.
“Your parents, your colleagues, and those who are there in the audience are there to celebrate you because they know your common struggle,” Woods said. “There’s a shared history, there’s a shared struggle, there’s a shared identity.”
Black graduation events have sometimes sparked criticism that they are divisive.
But the ceremony is “not about segregation,” said Michael Huggins, president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, which is organizing the event. Students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds may attend, he said, and the black students taking part in the ceremony also plan to attend the university’s official commencement on May 25 in Harvard Yard.
Perhaps the fact that only 5% of Harvard’s degrees have been awarded to black students over the years has something to do with African-Americans making up only about 13% of the population of the United States.
Although President of the Black Graduate Student Alliance Michael Huggins states that students of all backgrounds may attend, then why not have separate commencement ceremonies for those of every race who wish to celebrate their ethnicity? Or, better yet, just have one commencement that celebrates students of ALL backgrounds and features a diverse speaking arrangement, so then everyone can feel as if they are part of the same human race as their fellow students.
Planning for the event started last July. The administration has been supportive, organizers said, and many of the graduate schools have donated money to help pay for the ceremony. The students said they have raised $27,000 so far.
While most of those attending are graduate students, organizers said they hope to expand the event to include more undergraduates next year. Black students make up just under 14 percent of the students accepted into Harvard’s undergraduate class of 2020.
“This is an opportunity to tell everyone that we’re here and we’re an important part of the culture at Harvard,” Huggins said. “And if you want to learn more about that, then come.”
Rather than celebrating culture as Huggins claims, this exclusive ceremony could also be viewed as separating students by the color of their skin or ethnicity, instead of celebrating everyone as members of the same human race regardless of skin color.
Another factor setting this ceremony apart from the more common inclusive events of the past is the ever prevalent double standard when it comes to race in America. If those of European descent, for example Irish or Polish, wished to have their own commencement ceremony to celebrate their ethnic history, regardless of if they invited people of all backgrounds to attend, the event would be pegged as a “white power” gathering by the media and blasted into oblivion.
If a person whose skin color is too light were to dare bring this double standard of acceptance up to campus administrators, I imagine the result would not be a positive embracing of their European roots, but rather the word “racist” and “micro-aggression” would be thrown around quite a bit.
Were a White person to point out the obvious preference given to minorities over human beings of paler skin, they would promptly be reminded of their “White privilege”, which ironically does not include the privilege to celebrate their heritage the same as other ethnic groups are able to without criticism.
Rather than race relations improving over time, they seemed to have hit a standstill and in many cases are going backwards, as politicians are eager to take advantage of the racial divide for their own gains.
Unfortunately, no college administrator in their right mind would encourage students of all colors to intermingle and dispel their fears of people with other ethnic backgrounds, as they would be “micro-aggressioned” right out the door.
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