Growing Intersectionality Within the Black Student Union

NYU’s Black Student Union has quite the set of plans for this upcoming year.

The NYU Black Student Union started its year on Wednesday with a discussion about colorism. Many students discussed their perspectives about the impact of skin color discrimination within black and brown communities in the United States and beyond.

Steinhardt sophomore Harmony Hemmings facilitated the meeting and she said that all people should acknowledge that color-based discrimination exists.

“My goal today was to educate people on the fact that this is a major issue in the black community,” Hemmings said. “But even outside of the black community, it’s also a major issue and something that’s prevalent in Latino communities, in Asian communities being like Koreans, Asians and all that and Indian communities as well as a subset of the Asian communities as well as Caribbean and African communities.”

She said she hoped that the conversation today would motivate people to work towards seeing beauty in different skin tones.

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Hemmings wants to create a comfortable environment for students to delve into the complex and sensitive issues of race and discrimination, something that has always been a major goal of BSU. BSU Political Action Chair Michelle Jones said that she most enjoyed having a community for black and brown students to unite and support each other.

“I think we are definitely trying to work with a lot of different organizations,” Jones said. “I know we’re gonna be doing a event with the Muslim Student Association, and work with different organizations on campus.”

Jones said that BSU also plans to co-facilitate different meetings and work with different organizations throughout the year. BSU hopes to continue growing its community this year, and wants to focus on more intersectional topics. CAS senior Harry Boadu is the BSU president this year, and he said that one goal is to open more conversations regarding intersectionality.

“One of the big things we’re trying to focus on this year is not trying to define what blackness is and put people in a box, but rather create a space where people come together and share who they are what what their different identities are under the umbrella of blackness,” Boadu said.

He also said that BSU hopes to focus on the various representations within the club, such as the LGBTQ community, in its upcoming events.

Nursing junior Tyla Leach is the BSU social media chair, and she also hopes the club becomes more inclusive of different communities.

“We look out for disabled black people, LGBTQ black people, gender nonconforming, all those identities,” Leach said. “[This] builds a stronger community.”

She thinks that for more black people to know each other would create greater solidarity on campus. These sentiments are why Boadu is trying to closely collaborate with various LGBTQ groups.

“I don’t want to say what the events are yet, but we are trying and hopefully will come to provision in November when we do a lot of things for our homecoming week,” Boadu said. “I don’t wanna make any promises, but the following week, we’re definitely working with a club that we think will bring communities together.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misrepresented a quote from Mr. Boadu in which he was discussing how the BSU would encourage others to define their blackness. Additionally, Ms. Jones is the current BSU Political Action Chair, not the former. WSN regrets the errors.

Email Adeija Jones at [email protected]

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1 COMMENT

  1. How well does “intersectionality” stand up to critical scrutiny? According to the journalist, James Kirchick,

    “intersectionality compels one to adopt agendas that have nothing to do with his or her own. Worse, in the name of ‘solidarity’ with other supposedly ‘oppressed’ groups, it leads to alliances with those actively hostile to one’s cause. This is how a gay rights organization led by well-meaning progressives can be duped into disinviting private citizens of the one country in the Middle East respecting the humanity of gays, all at the behest of people who use cultural relativism to excuse Muslim societies that throw homosexuals from the tops of buildings.”

    Here are some of its other problems, weaknesses, and errors:

    For a start, “intersectionality” urges us to view the world as divided into a conspiracy of oppressors and an agony of oppressed: Victimizers and victims. Two classes, one relationship: oppression. This is the model offered to understand, explain and reform the world. It could not be more simplistic.

    Consider “class oppression” by capitalists of workers. Why have tens of millions of rural people in China flooded the cities to take jobs offered by capitalists? Because by so doing they improve their standard of living, their life chances, and the opportunities that they can offer their kinsmen back home. This “capitalist oppression,” which replaced communist political atrocities and economic disasters, has raised China from a backward agrarian society to a modern, developing society.

    If we look at the “hot spots” of the world, who are the oppressors and who the oppressed, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Nigeria? If only simple-minded ideas such as “intersectionality” could help us clarify the destructive disasters and human tragedies — drought, corruption, intolerance, civil war — but unfortunately they are useless.

    Further, “intersectionality” focuses on people’s victimhood. People are “oppressed” and disadvantaged, and that becomes the most important thing about them. Reducing people to victims takes away their ability to understand, their ability to act, their motivation, tenacity, resourcefulness, force of character, and everything that enables people to engage the world.

    Young women in the West and increasingly the Far East, for example, may not feel oppressed by “patriarchy,” but are confident in their abilities, not as a result of ideology, but as a result of their experience in the world. They know that their fair participation is supported by their societies. Reports making claims such as “women make 70% pay that men receive” have been demolished. Single women working the same hours in the same industries make the same as men; women who choose motherhood work less and make less than men.

    Moreover, “intersectionality” reduces people to a number of categories, such as gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion, capability, etc. Differences, such as sexism, racism, nationalism and ability — as opposed to what we have in common — are reinforced.

    In addition, “intersectionality,” in identifying all the oppressed as one, united and with common interests, is incoherent and oblivious to the facts (often, it seems, unpopular in radical social movements). The idea, for example, that victims of Islamophobia and homophobia are natural allies flies in the face of the fact that Islamic law and many Muslims are strongly opposed to homosexuals, and that Iran, for instance, executes homosexuals (even teenagers) by hanging them from cranes in public squares. The Islamic State does not require large machinery; it throws homosexuals off buildings.

    There is also a lack of affinity between victims of Islamophobia and victims of racial prejudice. The Arab world — the heart of Islam — has for many centuries, up to today, carried on an extensive black slave trade in Africa, sending Arab expeditions to captures slaves. There has been much observation in recent decades of slaves taken from the south by the Arabs of northern Sudan. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her autobiography, Infidel, reports her experiences in Saudi Arabia, where the term for blacks is abid, “slave,” and blacks are denigrated in the street.

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