appreciating black history month

I guess February is a busy month here on campus. There’s Valentine’s Day (i.e. trips to Spring Street to do last minute shopping at Where’d You Get That) and dinners at Thai Garden. There’s Winter Carnival and all the drunken revelry associated with that. But really, these activities don’t take up too much time; so I really want to know what the student body has been doing.

February is also known for being Black History Month, which means, as is tradition, there are a lot of activities on campus pertaining to the history of black people in this country.

This year, the Black Student Union (BSU) board has really outdone itself. Regardless of your personal interests, there is probably something on the agenda that rocks your boat. Are you a history buff? One of the Little Rock Nine will be here. Into comic strips or social commentary? The creator of Boondocks will be here. Into music? There’s a workshop with DJ Spooky.

These are just some of the events happening during the second half of this month. But, considering the first half of the month is already over and I haven’t seen much of y’all, I’m really not holding my breath.

Black History events commenced on Feb. 7 with Convocation, and there was a packed house. But the large crowd looked surprisingly like me. There weren’t a whole lot of non-minorities there.

Let me tell you some of what you missed. You missed some inspiring speeches. You missed the senior speaker explaining how her Williams education about American culture has been tremendously informative – and has made her an angry black woman. You missed people clapping and nodding because they understood exactly what she meant. You missed one hell of a speech by Keenan Keller.

You missed a lot of answers to those questions you only dared to ask in first-year entries but forgot the answers to.

The same applied to the re-opening of the Alana Haywood Library in Rice House last Sunday. You missed the research project highlighting the journey of black alumni through Williams gates – an event attended, once again, by a group whose pigmentation was strikingly similar to mine.

I’m hoping people are just really busy settling in this semester, and that you were planning all along to go to the events that are coming up later in the month. Otherwise, this is a really sad time for Williams.

I hear so many people talk about how the ‘diversity’ on this campus was integral to their decision to come here. In all honesty, every time someone tells me that, I am tempted to laugh. Is diversity just seeing a bunch of people who don’t look like you in class or in the Snack Bar? Is it novel to take a class on African-American literature or history?

That sounds really ludicrous, right? Why am I accusing you of not being interested in the culture of black people on this campus? Of course you want to learn… I’m taking this way too seriously, right?

Well, you can’t learn by knowing people only peripherally, or by taking a class. So stop giving lip service. The activities happening this month can only serve to supplement that class you’re taking, or as an avenue of conversation with that friend of a friend of a friend.

There is something really wrong on campus when the only faces at Black History Month celebrations are black. There is something really wrong when you sit beside me in an African-American literature class and tell me you don’t know anything about this book or that subject when there are so many plays, performances and lectures on that same topic.

And something is downright foul when I hear someone say in a class, albeit in more ‘intellectual- sounding’ language, “I don’t understand black people.”

At the time, I was dumbstruck, but I definitely have something to say now. Since you don’t understand, go out and learn some things. It’s not hard. People put in a lot of effort just to provide that informal avenue for you to learn. And it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this month is as