by Candice Bledsoe
Growing up, my parents taught me that excellence would yield results. Get good grades in school, develop a hard work ethic, and treat everyone fairly. While this advice helps Black students become decent human beings, it will not protect them from the challenges of being Black in America.
The recent killing of Richard Collins, III, exemplifies the extreme terrorism committed against Black people. Richard Collins was an exemplary student at Bowie State University, a dedicated second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and a caring son. He was scheduled to graduate on May 23, 2017. Instead, his Black graduation robe draped his seat in memoriam to his life.
Despite research that shows Black male degree attainment across all levels of postsecondary education is alarmingly low, Collins was the exception. His academic journey was a reflection of his dedication to excellence, service, and leadership. However, Black excellence did not protect him. He could not escape the hateful, barbaric stabbing perpetrated by Sean Christopher Urbanski, a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich Nation,” where members post racist and other offensive memes.
How dare Sean Christopher Urbanski take the life of Richard Collins, III. How dare Urbanski feel that Collins was a lesser person because of his race. Urbanski did not view Collins as being human. We do not live in the world that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned when he proclaimed: “I have a dream that little black boys and little black girls will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we all have the right to live with human dignity. It should not matter whether a Black person has a Ph.D. or a GED, we are human.
Unfortunately, the truth is Black students must learn how to excel in their academic journey, professional career and social life, while navigating in a White world. In 1963, James Baldwin gave a “Talk to Teachers” describing the peculiar experiences of Negro students in America. Although Baldwin gave that speech over 50 years ago much of it is relevant to the Black experience in America today. In addition to the hardships of life that everyone encounters, Black students must deal with racism, hate, and White supremacy.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Education
Dr. Candice Bledsoe is a faculty member at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and executive director of the Action Research Center in Dallas, Texas. Her research explores equity, access, and the experience of underrepresented students in higher education.