BUS discusses black identity in modern society

Bryan Wroten

Walk black. Talk black. Dress black. Think black.

At the Black United Students meeting last night, students discussed what it means to be black.

“What is your perception of being black?” BUS president Matthew Cox asked at the meeting. “Is it clothes, is it how you speak, or is it a mindset?”

Some students said mindset, another said Young Jeezy, which was met with laughter.

Harrison Woodruff, senior justice studies major, said he believes it to be a combination for him. He said style, look and attitude all play a part in his identity. A shared history with others also adds to his racial identity.

“A lot of us have struggled in our common upbringing,” Woodruff said. “That’s what makes us black.”

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African Studies, addressed the students with his response to the topic of the meeting, “Are You Black Enough?” He said they were asking the right questions.

“When you ask ‘Who am I?’, you ask one of the most important questions you can ask,” he said.

He said a person needs to be clear as to his or her racial identity. Very few blacks in America are pure African, just as few whites are purely European, he said. He said all races are connected by a common gene in mitochondrial DNA. Garrison said this gene can be traced back to a Neanderthal woman in the African Savannah.

A state of consciousness also is important in determining who a person is, he said. How a person interacts with his or her community and the fulfillment of responsibilities to the community is necessary, Garrison said.

Garrison said there is a gap between his generation and the younger generation in terms of racial identity. He focused on how his generation struggled to unify blacks in the country and get rid of colorism, which is intraracial segregation. Dark skinned, light skinned, Northern blacks and Southern blacks came together for a common cause of unity, he said.

Garrison said he didn’t want to sound like he was putting down all black young adults. He said they have more complications to face than his generation.

“You have a much tougher time than my generation,” he said. “I know how difficult it is for you to survive out here.”

It is up to black students to educate themselves about black consciousness, Garrison said.

“If you leave here feeling the same way you did when you came here, you have wasted your time,” he said. “If you think the same way as your friends back in the ‘hood who haven’t gone to college, you have wasted your time.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].