Could this wind up being another case of ghettoization and symbolic change?
In an effort to protect black students from race-based microaggressions, California State University Los Angeles has decided to carve out and reserve a section of its residential complex for its black student population.
If this sounds like segregation or segregated housing, that’s because it is.
According to WashingtonTimes.com, the proposal to set aside “housing space delegated for Black students,” which will be located in the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community, was made by university’s Black Student Union.
Demanding segregated housing seems to stand in bold contrast to the cruel historical narrative that most people typically associate with the national practice of segregation — structural oppression, intractable discrimination, dehumanization and black death, embodied in the term Jim Crow, with an origin story directly traceable to the “separate and equal” caveat outlined in 1896 Plessy V. Ferguson decision.
Segregation, as described above, amplified the inferiority complex blacks were forced to adopt by virtue of being born into white capitalism.
However, blacks summoning their own to develop, adopt and institute a program of self-segregation, strategically calculated to effect group preservation and racial mobility, has a long history in black political thought. It was, perhaps, most memorably articulated by scholastic giant W.E.B. Du Bois, who coined the phrase “a nation within a nation.”
In a 1934 speech, Du Bois urged blacks to seriously weigh a program of what he called “voluntary segregation” as the most viable avenue toward racial economic liberation and group well-being.
Read the full transcript of his remarks here. Here’s his summary:
“When all these things are taken into consideration it becomes clearer to more and more American Negroes that, through voluntary and increased segregation, by careful autonomy and planned economic organization, they may build so strong and efficient a unit that twelve million men can no longer be refused fellowship and equality in the United States.”
Echoes of this black tradition of racial uplift ring subtly in CSULA’s new policy.
School officials believe they are doing the right thing. Robert Lopez, a spokesperson for CSULA, said that the approval of the housing request offers an opportunity for black students to cultivate “academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory.”
However, when we factor in the reality that the school’s administration has yet to approve the black union’s request for a cultural competency course or an earmark allocating $30 million dollars to help black students, it remains to be seen whether this gesture is merely another mix of ghettoization and symbolic change.