Letter to the Editor: State of the Black Union intended to promote open dialogue

To the uncomfortable commentators,

This is a letter in response to the comments from the event article about the State of the Black Union. First, thank you for attending For Members Only’s event, State of the Black Union, with Nikki Giovanni. We are not here to devalue the fact you felt uncomfortable, but we will not apologize for our event being the catalyst of those feelings. When longstanding systems of privilege are confronted, those with privilege often feel uncomfortable. We encourage you to take those feelings and explore them and engage in a dialogue with either us or anyone else who could help you understand them. Talk to your peers of color and/or other minorities who feel uncomfortable at Northwestern. Join Sustained Dialogue, or even find a professor or administrator who can help you navigate a conversation about history, privilege, and/or social inequalities to better understand what Dr. Giovanni’s alleged “foul claims” may be rooted in. Most importantly, don’t devalue the experiences of those students for whom this is a very clear reality.

Nikki Giovanni spoke about our generation having a penchant for Internet dialogue. If you’d like to have an in-person dialogue, we are more than willing. We must stress that “foul claims” against white Americans were not at all made at our event. When we discuss issues of white privilege and racism, we are discussing the entire system of white hegemonic institutions that our country was founded upon and continues to operate through. This occurs in such subtle ways that it often goes unnoticed. We are not talking about individual white people, nor was Nikki Giovanni. She criticized the government and encouraged black people to learn and understand their rich history. This history has been hidden from not only us, but also American history as well. For example, For Members Only being dismissed as a “black panther interest group” disrespects the legacy of our organization as a sociopolitical/cultural group. Giovanni’s speech did nothing but affirm that black people have a beautiful history, encourage us to explore the world, love and live.

We brought Nikki Giovanni because she is one of the most respected speakers and activists of the century. Our goal was to inspire the black community and spark discussion among other groups. Hopefully we can take this discussion beyond the anonymity of online comments and work together for understanding across campus.


April McFadden, coordinator, and Sarah Carthen Watson, vice coordinator of programming
For Members Only: Northwestern’s premiere Black Student Alliance

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