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.


Jovonna Jones

President, Black Student Alliance