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Columns

A Bridge into a Black Girl’s Thoughts

By Ogechukwu C. Ogbogu, Contributing Opinion Writer
Ogechukwu C. Ogbogu ’24 lives in Wigglesworth Hall. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.

Black girl thought is a pent up thought that rumbles in my belly, and I feel overwhelmed by where to start in putting it to words. It’s the convergence of my own experiences with an emerging collective understanding of Black women’s reality; an intersectional understanding of the world we have all been living.

The pandemic has corresponded with new attention to the various issues of anti-Blackness that rampage the world: police brutality and health disparities among countless others. However, being a Black person, a Black woman, living in this day and age, I’m never surprised by what others are finding revelatory. What did surprise me, however, was having my understanding of what I was witnessing and experiencing outwardly communicated — because the divide between myself and the rest of the world can sometimes be invisible and yet so apparent.

For many, 2020 was an introduction into the lives of Black people, and yet, within this new understanding, there is still a disconnect between the manners in which violence against Black people and violence against Black women are discussed. The brutality that took place against George Floyd resulted in a sea of artwork that covered my Instagram page, but Breonna Taylor’s murder has become memes on my peers’ TikToks. As I scrolled through pages of informative messages on ways to support the families of Ahmaud Arbery and Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor’s name was made into the punchline to a joke, into a “funny” song; her death, just a commodity.

There is an uneasy feeling that comes from increasingly being asked “What can I do?” by my non-Black peers when the question itself is so draining to answer.

In my first advisee meeting as a freshman, I remember being with my family during Move-In Day, sitting in on a Zoom call, and being introduced to some members of my class for the first time. After introducing ourselves, there was a weight added to the Zoom room when we began to discuss the protests that were occurring all around us.

When my proctor asked, “How did you feel during this time? What can we do?” the silence was deafening, though my mind was active with thoughts and ideas and feelings. Either way, I did not want to speak first. I did not want to introduce myself with the premise that I am not just a peer or a classmate, but a Black Woman who is directly impacted by these realities. Yet I noted that I spoke for approximately 80 percent of the conversation. My mom asked me who I was speaking with, considering the toll of the issues discussed, and I told her “my entryway.”

Black women are so often forced into the position of a laborer, whether it be in the context of my entryway implicitly relying on me to explain how to address racism in an institution that I have just entered, or when my White peers text me asking: Why I haven’t posted, why I haven’t addressed my accounts with these structures, what can they do to help?

The first thing to do is recognize what your relationship with Black women is, specifically the ways in which it is likely often transactional and labor-inducing in manners that can only create violence towards us.

When asked “What can I do?,” what you are really asking is for me to try and reposition you in the world. I can’t do that. The important thing to accept is that there is nothing you can do that will remove you from your positionality as someone not a Black woman.

Instead, you must consciously make decisions that prioritize Black women. Supporting Black women is not just being educated by us and putting demands on us while we are tired, but it is consistently shielding us at our strongest and weakest moments without recognition.

I want to own my production, my creativity, my critical thinking. Numerous times I have had to speak to my school, to my white classmates about “How to be anti-racist?” “How to be a good ally?” just for them to thank me, appear benevolent, then turn and continue to create the same problems I taught them to resolve. Never do I get to ask myself, “What do I really want to say?” because I am constantly expected to answer everyone else’s demands before my own.

My thoughts are not commodities for others to use, gleaning social capital and a stamp of approval. Minding intersectionality — the compounding of power structures that impact the lived experience of Black women and so many others — is essential not just for you who are reading this, but for everyone. The ability to create demands, such as what I experienced in my entryway meeting, on another person — the privilege to ignore the violence that Black women face, the ability to stomach countless images and videos of Black trauma and death — all come from a position of power. This power is what allows non-Black Women to make demands on us; where one can leverage, in this case, their gender, their race, and ultimately their power and privilege, against another.

Consider this column my own form of protest. Within this protest, I want to unveil the joys, the sadness, the anger, the fear, and love that Black women experience when operating through this world, and writing creates a space where I can bring these dimensionalities to you. My storytelling is an act of resistance because ultimately, my writing is a telling of who I am: commodifiable for no one.

I write these thoughts to create a connection. Though we may be worlds apart or sharing the same spaces, this column is the creation of a new space. A bridge.

This bridge will allow me and my Black womanhood to grow and expand and intersect with the various rivers of thought and experience it may come across. I hope you travel along with me.

Ogechukwu C. Ogbogu ’24 lives in Wigglesworth Hall. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.

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