Black Study, Black Struggle

Here is an excerpt of a conversation researchers from this cluster are having at Black British Academics about the recent student protests against racism in the academy. We are sure that we will be continuing this, as there is so much to be discussed….

Dr Deanne Bell:

Dear Colleagues across the pond,

I’m a liberation psychologist teaching psychology at a historic liberal arts college in the US. On Tuesday students of colour plan to make themselves invisible for the day as a protest against their invisibility at the college. As a black faculty member I intend on joining a discussion they’ve invited faculty of colour to. But I found something deeply disturbing about them wanting to make themselves twice invisible and so shared an essay Robin D.G. Kelly published in the Boston Review in March 2016 entitled Black Study, Black Struggle.  I share a link here in the hope that some of you may read it and offer a reading of the condition of struggle in the UK amongst black students.

Dr Ornette D Clennon:

Hi Deanne

Thank you so very much for sharing this. I think the writer eloquently sums up my position where I believe that the current protest in our universities at both ends of the ponds are symptomatic of how under-prepared our BAME students are to study in the predominantly white academy. To expect academe to take notice of student protest when it is the very custodian of the nation’s intellectual psyche, demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the system and a lack of strategy to fight its oppressive tendencies. This strategy of resistance needed to have been taught to our students many years prior to university entrance. Here is where our communities need to be supported to be the intellectual hubs of grassroots resistance and strategic (intellectual) activism and this is where sympathetic staff in the academy can help prepare grassroots organisations with this knowledge. Our students with continued community support need to be able to enter the academy as intellectual freedom fighters skilled at securing the knowledge of the academy and how it dialogues with power. They then need to be taught how to bring that knowledge back out to be shared/exchanged with their local and wider communities.  For example, as the writer described, we could be setting up reading groups with our local community groups to explore these conceptual issues around power and their impacts on everyday lives.

The academy undoubtedly has its benefits, so let’s see it for what it is and use it for the wider betterment of our communities. So, I do think that we need to be more creative in how we support our local communities with the development of their intellectual freedoms, for the sake of our prospective students.

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