Katie Bowles ‘18
The Black Student Union hosted historian, writer, and educator Jelani Cobb for a talk titled, “The Half Life of Freedom: Race & Justice in America Today” on Tuesday, February 6 in Hogan Ballroom.
Cobb began by celebrating the life of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month who spent his life writing the often-marginalized history of African Americans in order to undermine and refute America’s culture of white supremacy.
In his lecture, Cobb asserted that the United States was founded upon a racial hierarchy, and thus, the tension between that racist system and the American ideals of liberty and democracy has existed since the birth of the nation. Cobb argued that we need to examine and grapple with our racist violent history in order to create an equitable society for everyone and ensure that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of the past again.
In citing many specific times of racist discrimination and violence throughout our nation’s history, Cobb exemplified the reality that the Charlottesville white supremacist rally and similar disturbing current events are not new or novel. White backlash against people of color has occurred throughout American history as an expression of fear and resentment against anything that threatens white societal dominance (such as demographic shifts, competition for employment, the political success of African-Americans, etc.)
Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Education Rob Jones shares about the lecture, “I left with the fact that history repeats itself and we must be vigilant and not have selective amnesia when it comes to race and justice in our country.”
Jelani Cobb closed with the inspiring message that change is possible when we work to understand the historical trajectory of our country, Martin Luther King’s legacy, the patterns of change and violence, etc. He shared, “We have seen in each of these backlash moments the habitual resurrection of people of conscience and people of good will who have the intent of creating a more just and more honest and more democratic country […] Progress is possible.”
Black History Month will continue on campus with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum on Thursday February 15, and the 50th Anniversary of the BSU: 20th Annual Fashion Show on Friday February 23 at Mechanics Hall. Tickets for the BSU Fashion Show are $5.00 and will be available February 12-22 from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. in Hogan 1 Lobby.