Yes, I held a Blacks-Only Space. And no, I'm not sorry.
As the founder and President of the newest Black organization on the La Salle University campus, the Black Cultural Society, there are some hard decisions that I have to make. While I am unapologetically Black (always), sometimes under the corrupt systems of Whiteness, I must make decisions that will not negatively impact those who I serve. Last week, my E-Board and I decided, collectively, that we would create a Black Mental Health Matters discussion. Towards the end of the week, I thought about how beneficial a healing for Black people would be if there was anyone else but Black people? Being from Philadelphia and being an activist, I recalled the Blacks-Only healing space that Black Lives Matter: Philly held during the summer and was criticized for. I remember seeing posts like "so it's only okay when Black people segregate, huh?" I would instantly become infuriated because people did not understand how important it was for our mental health and well-being to be surrounded by other peers of our background. So after proposing the idea of making the discussion a Blacks-Only healing space to the rest of the E-Board, they agreed and we made it a Blacks-only space.
Fast forward to the meeting. People are coming in and feeling really pumped about what everyone has to offer and say. And then walks two Black students and a White student. The room is shook. Everyone instantly turns at me in fright because they can only imagine how I am about to react. Everyone motions their lips and heads saying "don't do it," gesturing I not remove the White student in a public display. So I took the advice and called him into the hallway. I RESPECTFULLY explained to him why his presence may be a disturbance or trigger for the healing process that was going on for some of our Black student body. He actually seemed to take things better than what I had expected. However, upon arrival back into the discussion, his two Black friends seemed (an assumption of mines) upset and followed after him as he left the space. Do I apologize for their dismissal? No. And do I apologize to anyone who may be offended? Absolutely not. Here is why:
- Historically Whiteness has restricted when and where Black people can meet. Laws were put in place to keep us from revolutionizing against systems of oppression.
- If you consider your self an ally, you should already understand that your privilege is a threat to our well being. It is a trigger that hinders our healing and well-being. The abuse of power of Whiteness, in both historical and contemporary times, has led Black people to have a heightened sense of "fight or flight" that isn't healthy.
- Being around White people means that we have to censor ourselves. Censoring is a disruption to healing. It defeats the whole purpose of the space.
- There are issues that only Black people can relate to with one another. Too many times in public White settings, we become socially paralyzed because of how the majority reacts to our opinions. It becomes an attack on the person and not on the idea. A space as such let’s us come together and talk freely about the issues that we know most affect us without any outside noise or disturbance.
- Our events are unconsciously always Black-only spaces, due to the lack of interest from Non-Blacks NEVER attend our events. They disregard it when we extend the offer, however, find it offensive when we decide we just a space for ourselves.
- Being an ally is knowing when to step up and step back. Giving your opinion is detrimental in Black spaces because it mirrors how we landed in contemporary times in the first place.
- Utilitarianism argues that removing one from a space contributes to the greater good. If the center and core of our well-being is at stake, non-Blacks should understand that.
- Hold your own White-only space (even though systemically, every space is yours).
So if you've read this fully through, and you're still waiting for an apology? Keep waiting. My Blackness isn't up for compromise, nor here for your convenience.