Friday, 8 July 2016

An Open Letter to Wendy Williams About her Comments on the NAACP and HBCUs

Wendy Williams,

I have respected your career and looked up to you for being a fearless, outspoken, successful black woman in media for many years but I must say I was incredibly disappointed by your recent comments following Jesse Williams' powerful speech at the BET Awards. I'd like to take a moment to address your confusion about HBCUs and the NAACP. It is irresponsible of you to be so ill-informed about our people's history and to perpetuate such a negative rhetoric from a position of huge influence. I truly believe that all of us, regardless of how big or small our platform, following or audience may be, have a social responsibility to be aware and vocal.

To answer your questions:

Why are there Historically Black Colleges, but no historically white colleges?

There are historically white colleges, we just don't refer to them as such. We refer to them as the Ivy League. In fact, any college or university dating back to the 1960's or prior that is NOT historically black IS historically white. During this time period bright, ambitious, qualified young black men and women were being discriminated against by these schools, making it damn near impossible for them to access a higher education, which, though not to the same magnitude, is still a very real obstacle for black students of present. HBCU's were born out of necessity. Born out of black communities creating for themselves what the system refused to afford them. Born out of bright young black men and women refusing to tap out when existing organizations refused to acknowledge them, their achievements, and their aspirations. If they won't include us, we'll create our own. That is why we have Historically Black Colleges, and that is why it is important that we continue to refer to them as Historically Black Colleges. Additionally, these colleges and universities have always allowed people of all races to attend, unlike their counterparts.

Why is there an NAACP but no NAAWP?

The NAACP exists and has existed to fight for civil rights and freedoms that have been and continue to be denied from POC. White Americans have never been oppressed or denied constitutional rights and freedoms based on the colour of their skin in the United States. What purpose would a national association for the advancement of a group who have never had their advancement jeopardized even serve? None, that is why it doesn't exist. 

Pretending that racism and injustice do not exist will not make them go away. Pointing to the rights and freedoms that POC have on paper and saying "Look! See! We do have equal rights!" does not change the truth in the pudding. And by the pudding, I mean the statistics. I mean the fact that nearly 600 people have been killed by police in the United States since January, most of them being visible minorities. I mean the fact that a convicted white rapist like Brock Turner gets a slap on the wrist while a non-violent black man like Alton Sterling is executed in the street before he even gets a chance to make his case. I mean the fact that only 13% of the US population is black while close to 40% of men in US prisons are black, many of them serving hefty sentences for non-violent crimes. Racial profiling sees POC investigated and convicted by law enforcement more frequently and sentenced more severely which creates an endless direct funnel to the prison system. Talking about race and addressing the specific histories and specific sets of issues that POC face is not what upholds racism. Racist people and racist systems uphold racism.

I sincerely hope the backlash to your comments inspires you to educate yourself on your history and your issues, because they are yours, instead of trying to dismiss them.