BSA: Wagner, There is Still Work to Be Done

As a complete human being, who is also African-American, I was certainly troubled by President Wagner’s use of the ‘3/5 Compromise’ as an example of how compromise promotes progression. Both sides involved in this compromise desired to dehumanize blacks. One side wanted to count black bodies but deny them the franchise, while the other wanted to ignore blacks’ existence as human beings totally. The compromise was that enslaved black people officially had less value and that their value was to be fully controlled by white men.

I am frustrated by President Wagner’s use of this example. However, I am not surprised.

This year, as well as in the past, President Wagner has helped fund BSA’s Black History Month efforts, a contribution that is always greatly appreciated.

Yet, the safety, uplift, and identity of a black student population does not just lie in the events our organizations are able to sponsor. It lies in the fabric of the University that claims to embrace and encourage them.

When the president of the University used the overall denial of our ancestors’ full humanity as a prime example of institutional compromise, it did not make me feel secure. It did not make me feel valued here. But, it reminded me why I wasn’t surprised.

I wasn’t surprised by the blasé comments made on the Dooley Show. I’m never surprised when the general public tries to blame minority groups for “self-segregating”. And, I’m never surprised why many people think the only way they can connect with me, a black woman, is by inserting the colloquial “girrrrrl”.

Insensitivity. Apathy. Ignorance. Not as obvious as blatant, “lynching” and “tar-feathering” racism, but just as damaging to a community that claims to value diversity. It seems that Emory still refuses to embrace the actual practice of understanding and appreciating diverse populates. Appeasing the black community whenever it seems like we’re just “hurt” and “confused” is not the same as valuing black students and ensuring that black culture has the space and support to thrive at Emory.

President Wagner, perhaps you did make a “clumsy” mistake. You are forgiven. But the work is not yet finished.

Your “mistake” is just another example of the ignorance and complacency embedded within the core of our institution. No matter the intentions behind such unacceptable commentary, whether spoken by you or our peers, we are fed up. We will not keep letting these instances build, excusing each one as a simple “mistake”.

Thus , how should we, all of Emory, combat ignorance, insensitivity, and indifference? With engagement. With intention. With fervor.

So, President Wagner, we challenge you. We challenge you to listen to us, Emory’s Black community, as you would want someone to listen to your needs and desires. Listen with compassion and humility. See our Emory vision as your Emory vision. The two should not be that different.

Listen, and then commit to act. Commit to promoting, supporting, and believing in a better Emory.

It’s time.

Signed, 

Jovonna Jones

President, Black Student Alliance  

  • Kimbria

    Amazing. Well put.

  • Wagner Resign

    nicely written… but weren’t you a bit quick to forgive him? the same president who presided over the cuts, lied about test results, arrested his own students, etc. what need wagner do for us to say, “No, no more. This will be the LAST time we get burned by this rich corporate liason who lives in a castle.” ?

    I hope the smoking gun does not come in the form of something worse. The evidence is obvious that this man does not have the University’s interests at heart, much less the students’ interests. He’s a corporate puppet with an empty head. It’s time to go after him; let’s force him to resign. We don’t want to compromise on this one. He is an embarrassment, a ticking time-bomb. No compromise: Wagner resign now.

  • http://gravatar.com/modernland college student

    Well written Jovonna! Bravo! The problem isn’t just Wagner (although he is definitely one of them).. . . the problem is Emory. The systematic racism embedded within “our” (or should I say white) institution.

  • Great Piece – And a thought

    This piece is great – nice work!

    My though for you is this: Wagner has weathered other crises before. He promises new commissions, new hires, new initiatives – and then defunds and reorganizes them into uselessness once the outrage winds down.

    Whatever you ask from him, he’ll placate you and wear you out. At best you’ll get a fraction of it. Don’t give him ground at the beginning. I’ve been here seven years, I’ve seen it happen.

    Demand he resign – and work from there. And if he does resign, then, so be it – honestly, I can think of few more powerfully symbolic ways to fight structural racism than firing a University CEO (it hasn’t happened before). But whatever you do don’t lead soft. Believe me, he’s almost certainly already invoking your forgiveness to him when talks to the Board and his donors.

  • This article is a poorly written ode to self-pity

    “the ‘3/5 Compromise’ as an example of how compromise promotes progression.” Progression is an interesting word choice.

    It seems that Emory still refuses to embrace the actual practice of understanding and appreciating diverse populates. “Populates”???

    I wasn’t surprised by the blasé comments made on the Dooley Show. Blasé is not the first word that would come to mind when describing those comments, but maybe we aren’t thinking about the same comments.

    “But, it reminded me why I wasn’t surprised.” OK, so this article (I assume that is what you are talking about) reminded you of why you weren’t surprised by the article. When I heard about the Christopher Dorner shootings, I was reminded why I wasn’t surprised. Or maybe I wasn’t surprised because I didn’t care about the motives for why this guy murdered innocent people. Or maybe I was surprised. But why does anyone else care if I was surprised by something in the news that didn’t affect me? Or maybe it did affect me, because Dorner was a reverse racist.

    “And, I’m never surprised why many people think the only way they can connect with me, a black woman, is by inserting the colloquial “girrrrrl”.” Never surprised that, or never surprised why?

    “ensuring that black culture has the space and support to thrive at Emory.” This is a serious question. Should we treat everyone equally, or recognize that black people have a distinct culture? I don’t know, because you don’t like it when insert a “girrrrl”.

    “We will not keep letting these instances build, excusing each one as a simple “mistake”.” You and what army? Earlier you said that you forgave Wagner for his “clumsy” mistake. Now “mistake” has the quotation marks. I don’t get it. How will you stop the instances from building? By educating people not to build them? You are obviously a very well educated and well spoken person yourself.

    I know that you’ll find this response infuriating. You probably don’t think that anyone should challenge your rant (even though your article is a challenge to president Wagner’s article). Or maybe I shouldn’t assume motives like that. It wouldn’t surpass me if you were to get angry and defensive, because someone called you out on your bullshit. But frankly, I don’t care. Boycott Emory. Boycott affirmative action. Boycott financial aid and University funds for the BSA.

    • http://gravatar.com/djunior24s Citizen Who Cares About Community Regardless of Their Identity

      When did she ever mention boycotting? Also, “reverse racism” is an awful oxymoron. There either is racism or there isn’t, regardless of who insinuates it.

      Anyways,

      You clearly don’t understand how to respect another’s thoughts. Its okay to have your opinion and share your different thoughts, but you are entirely missing the point of this woman’s article. And it seems you need to learn how to dissect another’s work without being so personally offended. Its not like she came at your people or your history or your family or any of your lineage.

      All she asked was for President Wagner to
      “Listen with compassion and humility. See our Emory vision as your Emory vision. The two should not be that different.
      Listen, and then commit to act. Commit to promoting, supporting, and believing in a better Emory.”

      To me, this applies to all of Emory, and not just the Black community. Yes, this article is in reference to the Black community because Pres. Wagner and those who edited/helped with his publications chose to publish an article without realizing how insensitive it is.

      Ultimately, this article is a call to empathy and greater understanding of our world as human beings, regardless of color. Its a call to act as if this is any urgent situation where a group of people are struggling and feel that their “leader” does not understand their struggles.

      I would respect what you had to say more if you actually asked where she was coming from on some points, or at least showed more concern, but you show none. So, please go take 30 seats in auditorium by yourself until you can learn how to appreciate and understand another’s perspective.

      I’m only saying this part because you don’t have to be so disrespectful. All you are doing is furthering the spirit of apathy that currently resides in many human beings today by being so overcritical of everything a person said before really even comprehending her message.

      By the way, I am not “Black” nor am I “White.” So, this is not a continuation of what you call a “ode of self-pity.”

      Good Day,

      A Citizen who cares about the community regardless of Race.

      “I will hear what and any human has to say and try to understand before I take any perspective.”

      • Pull your head out of your..

        I am not the poster you are responding to. But I have to say, that your response makes no sense. How are they furthering the spirit of “apathy”? Do you know what apathy means? If the poster was apathetic they wouldn’t have responded to the article. The poster did actually ask where she was coming from on some points. Read the post. I read the original article and it doesn’t make sense. The author talks about the general public blaming minority groups for “self-segregating”. Who is the general public that she is talking about? Where is the evidence for this? Blaming makes it seem like the general public views “self-segregation” as a bad thing. But the author is the president of the BSA. Is she denying that minorities form groups based on ethnicity? And does the general public have a problem with “self-segregation”? What percent of Americans oppose Israel because it is a Jewish state? Who elected president Obama? Was it the general public? Or is the general public just white males?

        In response to your comment, “either is racism or there isn’t”, I have two questions. Is there racism in President Wagner’s article? Is affirmative action racist?

        President Wagner shouldn’t have apologized for writing that article. When the founding fathers made the three-fifths compromise, they weren’t debating voting rights or compromising over whether slavery should be abolished. Southern states wanted more representation in Congress. They justified this by saying that they had all of these slaves. Northern states didn’t want to give them representation based on slaves, because that would mean that Northern states would have a smaller share of votes in the House of Representatives than they would otherwise. The US Constitution didn’t establish a perfect democracy. President Wagner wasn’t saying that it did. I wouldn’t have used that example, because I know that it would have provoked an outcry. But president Wagner wasn’t even talking about a compromise between abolitionists and supporters of slavery. He was talking about a compromise between elites who were fighting over how much representation they should have in the House of Representatives.

        Stop being so sensitive and grow a pair. I could make an argument that the author of this article is racist. It doesn’t surprise her that president Wagner wrote that article, because of what some kids did with the Dooley show. What does president Wagner have in common with these other people who don’t surprise her? He’s white. But I’m not going to make that argument. Because racism can only be defined by certain minority groups. Everyone’s ancestors suffered. We can’t change the past. Stop fighting about this BS and take care of your own problems.

    • Troizel Carr

      Who are you to scrutinize the plea of a student (just like yourself, I assume) to the President of our beloved University? What license was given to you by some higher power to take the vulnerability of another individual to represent the underrepresented and tear it apart? Please let me know so that I can understand. The only “bullshit,” or so you call it, that I see is the reply you gave to this article. You say that this article is an “ode to self-pity,” but I do not see a “woe is me” mentality represented here nor do I see this as something to be sung. I see your response to it as a condescending rant about the English language. What could you possibly be mad about? Are you a pretentious English major who thrives on dissecting substantial pieces of text? Everyone who has read this article no doubt understood what was being conveyed. Additionally, please take into consideration that Jovonna’s case not a personal case against President Wagner or the University. She wrote this as a response from the Black Student Alliance, an organization that has the best interest of the black community (and all of its sub-communities) at heart. It seems to me that you are coming against the very mission of the Black Student Alliance with this response. Am I calling you a racist bigot? Not in the slightest. Do I wish that you had never responded to this article? That is neither here nor there. I do wish, however, that you did not hide behind anonymity to bash the plea of a community. If it does not “surpass” you for one to be to called out on “bullshit,” then I am certain that you won’t mind me calling you out on yours.

      In layman terms, I need you and your ignorance to have a seat. There is absolutely no reason to come against such an intimate call to action to our President. I have no doubt that if Wagner were to make a change, you would no doubt be positively affected. So once again (in case you missed it), have a seat.