The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Korbin Houston

We Are More than Angry Black Kids, but We Are Still Angry

This title is based off of a Concerned Students of Color meeting during my sophomore year. If I remember correctly it was towards the end of the year after we had already started organizing and had multiple meetings with administration already. This meeting was planning for future action, and talking about how people were perceiving us was a part of this meeting. What people thought of us was important for future contexts when reaching out to other groups and individuals to join our organizing.

I said at one point something along the lines of “so we can be seen as more than angry and hungry black kids.” I said all this in a quite shrill high-pitched voice as well expressing the frustration of this perception as it is a common trope for many African-Americans to have to deal with when it comes to the injustices of institutional racism. Then, Jalen Baker ’16, graduating senior at the time, said in response, “but we are angry. And we are hungry.”

His tone was a solemn statement of truth. And when I look back on this I know now what I will learn after that moment; worrying about the respectability politics and people’s perception of black kids is not going to do anything. It’s because, no matter what, if you play the game of the system or you are all the way against it, it’s hard getting treated and supported like you should have in the first place.

In the last article, I talked about what angry black kids could accomplish and really this one is about why some of us, particularly us black kids and other minorities, are angry in the first place, specifically at Bates.

We are angry because we get here in our relative excitement for being a first year at college. Coming to a college expecting that it lives up to its illustrious mission statement, which includes the commitment to diversity and inclusion and emancipating liberal arts. Yet, the institution fails continuously and we are left disillusioned by experience.

We have experiences of having to advocate for ourselves on topics ranging from: help with meals over break, wages, diversity in faculty and curriculum. We repeatedly express our situations just to have the slow-moving institution tell us “it takes time.”

Times like when we expressed issues in the beginning of the last academic year about security, to have one of us abused and handcuffed by the end of the year by the same security officers that we complained about.

You are left wondering if our radical founder Oren B. Cheney would disapprove of the path Bates had taken, and if Benjamin Mays, class of 1920 would be disappointed to know that a black male student was abused by authority figures in a building named after him, even though he worked hard in the civil rights era to prevent this very type of situation.

Feeling rage that we were not listened to, nor heard in time to help make progress to end students of color suffering on campus. Wondering if we should have even taken the time to do all of this organizing at all, and if our efforts will even make a difference in the long run.

So whenever you see a student of color frustrated, upset, “making noise”, disgruntled, or “all up in our feelings,” just know that we are tired, we are hungry, and we are angry.

What Can Angry Black Kids Get Done?

Fall of 2015 was a wonderful time for angry black college students.

It started with the angry kids at Mizzou, and then their corruptive influence spread to college campuses across the nation. There were angry black kids at Columbia, angry black kids at Yale, angry black kids at Oberlin, angry black kids at Dartmouth, and angry black kids at many more collegiate institutions. Then there was us angry black kids here at Bates. The 2015-2016 academic year became a scene in which groups of ungrateful black kids across the nation were whining to their institutions that they were tired of this and in need of that from their already giving and supporting institutions.

Never heard of that here at Bates? There are some pretty probable reasons why you may not have been aware of students of color organizing on this campus. First, our demand list was not published until Short Term of 2016, versus other schools publishing and gaining mass attention from theirs during the Fall of 2015.

We also have had relative cooperation with administration, so there has not been much need for escalation to get demands met unlike some of the institutions you may have seen in protest during the Fall of 2015.

We also had the impression to some that we were not inclusive being that our group was majority black. (Trust me, even though the group has been majority black, there have been other ethnicities/races involved with the group. Not as much as we would have wanted, but that is a conversation for another time why that has not been the case). The group has also been pretty low key, especially in the beginning, due to how we organize and function as a group.

So what can angry black kids accomplish in all of our whining? Here are some of our successes:

– Getting the institution to think critically about diversity in the faculty and the curriculum.

– Getting more transportation help for students when traveling for breaks (with this being reworked due to the new Concord Coach service on campus).

– Successfully advocating for the increase of student wages from $7.75, $8.00, and $8.25 (the previous A,B,C rates) to $8.10, $8.40, and $8.60, before the Maine minimum wage went up to $9.00, affecting a majority of students’ pay rates on campus

– Advocating for students who have to stay on campus for breaks which resulted in the Break at Bates fund which helps provide money and access to space for students to have programming over break (this came out of wanting the college to provide a meal plan for break—a request that was basically shot down)

– Advocating for and having an OIE review conducted, to address the concerns students had about the functioning and programming coming from the OIE (the review was completed this past winter semester and Short Term)

In terms of what we have been doing now, the group, The Concerned Students of Color at Bates College, with the Bates+Who? Coalition have been addressing the follow-up issues that we have had with getting our original demands met (which you can see through the online Bates Student), and dealing with the accountability of the incident with Security that occurred during this past Short Term.

If you have questions or would like to get involved, please email us at batessoc@gmail.com. Also keep on the lookout for coming articles going into more detail about past and present student activism on campus, and other topics as well.

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