It has been six generations since the end of slavery.
In that time, Pacific University has withstood two world wars, the emergence of the Civil, Women’s and LGBTQ+ Movements, the invention of the airplane, telephone, television and Google. Yet somehow, for all the wisdom we should have attained, blackface and redface were still recently posted to the school’s website.
Why is this noteworthy? There are two main reasons. The first being willful ignorance. Look at what we can do now, the resources available for deeper learning and extensive sharing. Blackface is a stereotype that has plagued American society for nearly 200 years. Despite this, there are too many who choose to overlook or reject its impact. Ignorance is not inherently evil, it is human. Yet in a world like ours, it is also no excuse. I do not believe babies are born culturally sensitive. I do, however, expect adults to use the resources available (Google anyone?) to help rebuild a society fundamentally flawed.
The second being a mistake was made. So what’s next? In a campus-wide email, the university administration introduced a few steps to correct this grievance. Among these were a public discussion and an invitation from the Marketing Department, requesting student input to begin drafting a new program, Best Practices for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. These steps raise concerns, namely that in the time it takes to deliberate, this incident will be forgotten because people want to remain ignorant. Some might argue that unraveling the deep racism running through our school, country and world will take time. To that I ask, how much longer are we going to discuss how and why to rectify a stereotype introduced in 1830? When are we going to act instead?
So yes, I am frustrated. I, a descendent of slaves who desperately wanted more for me, must still confront blackface at my own school six generations later. In times like these, I wonder what the people who were assassinated and jailed and murdered during the Equality Movements would have done.
I have a hunch. I think they would have cried.