I like to think of myself as a relatively well-informed person. I keep up to date with the daily news and the happenings of the world. However, as depressing as it was for the previous couple months — still reeling from the virus, from Ahmaud Aubery’s murder and the doubtful look in my mother’s eyes each time I walk out the door to go for a run, I decided I would take a break from the news for just one day … to just read a book, play a game, watch Netflix. To take just one day to exist. But like clockwork, and with the kind of sick poetry that only America can provide, former officer Derek Chauvin reminded me that I am not allowed to just exist.
Earlier this year, in the blissful times of close human interaction, I had a conversation with my roommate (who is also black, for context) sparked by a copy of one of Professor Cornel R. West’s '74 books on my desk. They mentioned how some of their family had strongly negative opinions of the professor at least partly because of what they believe were his unfair criticisms of former President Barack Obama.
The ensuing conversation is one that we have continued to have on many occasions and with many different people. Yes, sure, the conversation was always partly about whether Obama was a good president — for black and other people — and whether the criticisms of him were valid or not. But an underlying tension in these conversations is one that has been front and center in social dialogue recently: whether or not black people have an obligation to wholly support other black people and their endeavors simply because they are black.
On a Monday morning, early this semester, I sat in Emerson Hall and listened to the always charismatic Professor Cornel R. West ’74 speak about Beyoncé. Though he has updated his opinion on her slightly, he noted that he had previously said Beyoncé puts on a “superficial spectacle” typical of pop music today. “Beyoncé can move,” he once said, “but Aretha Franklin needed only a microphone to thrill an audience.”
This isn’t going to be one of my regular column articles. It’s more casual. Probably less refined too. Fewer hours have been spent crafting it — we’ve all been a little preoccupied. It’s definitely a break from the norm of my column. But I think that break is not only warranted but valuable at this moment. These last couple of weeks have been a break from normality in general, and I believe my column should reflect that — not hide from it.