In my research, I have discovered two main problems that plague the black community and black organizations:
1. We like to talk about our problems constantly
2. We are not truly inclusive
We must begin with the Black Relationship Meeting. Held each spring semester, the black relationship meeting is one of the most attended events of the year. Why one may ask? People love drama. People love to "sip tea" or even to just straight up dump it onto someone else.
As first year students, we had only heard the stories of the gossip and chaos at this event. While the meeting is supposed to be a civil and insightful talk about the state of the black community, it becomes nothing but personal attacks and a huge bash on the Black Men's Forum. The first question was “are there any barriers of entry into the black community?" Right off the bat, tensions rose high. Both the Harvard norm is and the meeting norm was to introduce yourself using your name and gender pronouns. Members of the black community who chose to answer the question stumbled over pronouns or even delivered them with an eye roll. THIS is an example of why Queer members of our community do not feel welcomed in certain spaces.
So yes- EVERYONE WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.
BMF- YOU ESPECIALLY have to do better. Actually put your inclusivity chair to work.
Our Queer members of the black community are indeed ostracized. You can say that you are inclusive to all black identifying, male identifying, and/or female identifying students, but if you do not make them feel WELCOMED in the space...WYD. You are NOT truly INCLUSIVE
At the end of the event, the seniors began to raise their hands and criticize the unproductive nature of the black relationship meeting as a whole. They have seen the same questions, same responses, same problems, for FOUR years- and still have no solutions. ALL WE DO IS TALK. We all know that talking is not enough. Going back and forth at one another, trying to assign blame to a certain person or group of people...neither of these are helpful.
1. Understand that true inclusivity involves respect and making others feel comfortable in a space
Yes. Comfortability is a two way street. We must sincerely try our best to make those who feel marginalized comfortable; but also, those who feel uncomfortable, must enter the space where they think they may be uncomfortable, in order to see that the space is not what they think it is.
2. We must be more supportive of one another
Support is not constantly "gassing" (boastfully complementing) our friends on the email list for their accomplishments. It is not attending shows because there are several plays and shows that are simply not worth spending money to see. It is equally bad to not critique someone just because they are your friend. We are all adults. If something was bad, admit it! Stop talking out both sides of your mouths about things.
Just because you may have an issue with a person and/or people in a organization DOES NOT mean that the organization itself is inherently bad. Yes, you should do all that you can to change the foundations of it if you think the organization has problems, but that does not include ranting about how certain people "aren't sh*t" on snapchat and instagram stories.
If we were actually supportive of one another, we would point out the good things that we are doing and should continue to do to be more welcoming as a community, instead of constantly saying what we are not and what we are not doing.
Throughout my project I have focused on investigating inclusion in Harvard’s black community, as well as the Black Students Association’s role in creating a more inclusive community. In a report called “Sense of Belonging and Persistence in White and African American First-Year Students”, researchers including Leslie R. M. Hausmann, Feifei Ye, Janet Ward Schofield, Rochelle L. Woods, conclude that a sense of belonging is directly related to student persistence on college and university campuses. Cultural affinity groups like BSA play a large role in creating that “sense of belonging” that result in a greater desire to stay on campus and willingly be a part of a community.
The authors defined students’ sense of belonging as “their psychological sense of identification and affiliation with the campus community,” (Hausmann 650). Researchers Baumeister and Leary assert that “at a general level, failing to achieve an adequate sense of belonging can lead to increased stress, detriments in mental and physical health, and even suicide,” (651). Therefore, at Harvard, it is indeed most imperative that black identifying first-year students have a sense of belonging at this predominately white institution. Academics here are already rigorous, and extracurriculars can be too. If first-years do not feel comfortable, that they belong, nor feel they have some form of support, they will dread this institution. The First-Year Black Table, specifically, is a crucial entity in Harvard’s Black Students Association because it allows for the intentional creating of a truly inclusive and comfortable community for freshly faced black identifying first-year students.
Hausmann, L.R.M., Ye, F., Schofield, J.W. et al. Res High Educ (2009) 50: 649. https://doi-org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1007/s11162-009-9137-8