The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday June 7th

Column: A prayer for unrest


Columnist Jalynn Harris

From Missouri to Cape Town and back again, black university students are fed up. Transatlantically, campuses have been frequented with rallies and protests, all speaking out against anti-black practices in university systems.

While news outlets refuse to accurately, if at all, cover these movements, millennials have flooded social media with images of activism, police brutality and statements of solidarity. But let us be self-critical and admit that simply standing in solidarity with a movement is not enough. Instead, we must be moved to action that not only pressures the pillars of institutional racism, but commits to dismantling it completely.

Institutions most effective in anti-black practices are the most susceptible to the rage of the black person. UNC for instance(s) continues to utilize black labor for monetary gain whether it be in athletics, domestic staff employment or selective diversity advertising. We must understand then that, as commodified bodies, we are essentially the white man’s source of income, and when we mess with his money, he begins to come undone.

As we are the agents that maintain the status quo of the university system, we too are the ones who can make it come to a complete standstill. But in order to do this, it must be all of us — athletes, Greeks, academics, faculty, staff etc. —intentionally identifying with one another, in a concerted effort against white supremacy. But to the African suffocated into America, such association with each other is, to say the least, awkward, as identifying with each other is counter-culture.

As blacks, our bodies are spaces of inherited century trauma. If not for a strong case of post-traumatic slave syndrome, we struggle also with Stockholm syndrome, an inexplicable attachment and affection for, our colonial captors. Out of this comes a desire to please, make comfortable and even become like the colonizer.

But if we are to craft a new world for those who come after us, we must work to unlearn these colonial sicknesses. Our allegiance to our brothers and sisters cannot be outweighed by an allegiance to modernity’s greatest terrorists.

What’s more, our bodies are sights familiar to constant surveillance. When two or more of us are gathered, the white gaze becomes curious, even fearful of our supposed criminality. Caught at the irrational whims of the white gaze, we have even become conditioned to policing ourselves — quieting our laughter, muting our swag, changing our speech.

But this conditioned self-surveillance must also be resisted, as true self-reclamation means the liberation of our thoughts. We cannot re-imagine if our thoughts are still tethered to satisfying the white imagination.

Essentially, the disassociated black self can only begin reassembling within black community, within the immutable transformation of black love, recognizing that all black folks are family, and that this family is all that we have. And soon we will also see that when we move, the University will shake. When we stand still, the University will unbuckle.


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