Oberlin Blogs


August 25, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

Sometimes I do not always have the right words at the right time to express what is on my mind and heart. Just like everyone else, I am no wizard of wisdom nor a grand imparter of insight. I just speak my mind, keep it real and hope that it reaches people.

For the past couple of weeks I have had an ongoing battle with finding the words to tangibly express the flurry of emotion that I experience on a daily basis but has since been heightened in light of current events. I have really had such a time trying to qualify my emotions, justify them to others, rationalize to myself or give up to just find some middle ground for sanity's sake. Over and over in my mind I have replayed the thousands of ways that my opinions, valid feelings and experiences will be both challenged and attacked. For that very reason, I chose to take a position of an intentionally quieted voice.

Let me explain that right quick. At first I wanted to be a listener, a gatherer of information, a person who was slow to speak because I feel the most important conversations I need to have are often internal. Then I thought about it and in seeing the people closest to me constantly sharing their opinions, links to read and watch viral feeds and even the brave few who are in Ferguson, MO right now I feel insincere. Cowardly even. Here I am with a medium to reach people and to make a statement to rise up and be... and yet I quietly scroll through my Facebook and Twitter timelines sharing links and reading 4-page statuses. Clicktivism got me.

Certainly there is a distinction between venting in a public forum about real issues and putting your valid feelings out there and simply not saying anything or doing anything. And speaking for no one but myself, I am not down for people coming for me for WHAT I FEEL. Challenge me on it, have a discussion for me and all that--I love that--but be respectful about it.

One of the many things that makes discussing Mike Brown, the current situation in Ferguson and the countless lives being lost of people of color in systematic ways is that it forces people to accept, or, in the very least, acknowledge, some really hard things. Twenty years of living makes me fully believe that racism still exists. I know that no matter how well I may craft an argument on systematic oppression of people of color, someone will refute my ideas. I know the ending to a conversation where I talk about violence and the lives being lost and someone will tell me "that is just how it is." Even to the point where I mention children and other helpless bodies being lost on grand scales, yep I will still get dismissed.

So what is my point? It is these disclaimers. To my communities, I apologize for not writing to our stories sooner. I admit that I was not (and in very many ways still am not) ready to speak on Ferguson and the myriad of things that this situation presents for us to address as a community and where there is to go from here. I do not have the answers to those questions, but I took on the responsibility to at least think those things out here on the blogs. I am taking my time with it but I got y'all, us, I mean.

As of late, tremendous media attention has been on the black community and highlighted (and misrepresented) issues that are not new. I have watched as several stories unfold about Mike Brown the individual. The same way Trayvon Martin was retold to the world. The same way that countless others that are known to me and unknown to a lot of us have been re-presented with these young folks as victims (or monsters) who received undue (or as I have seen it argued, justified or due) consequences.

Before even reaching full adulthood, their lives were challenged, deemed unvaluable and in flashes of seconds and minutes, their bodies left cold. In their discoveries by public media, all that they ever hoped for, who they were as people, the circumstances of their life and what they aspired to do and be gets lost. Sadly, a lot of times it will not be found either. For those who justice is rallied, they become trending hashtags, social media movements and hot conversation for some time. They touch hearts, they symbolize a very harsh reality for some of us while simultaneously making a comfortable life of ignorance not so blissful anymore.

This brings me to my final disclaimer... with my words and ideas I try to present alternative models for thinking and encouraging growth of all kinds in this small digital blog space. I recognize my position as a blogger with my identities and I act with intention about not being "that controversial one." However, I am not going to let potential perceptions of my roles and responsibilities to my blog dictate what I choose to address in this space.

I set out to speak as a member of the black community who can find unique ways to marry my everyday experiences with my college experiences and present them in a manner that speaks to a wider range of people. I do not apologize for this post and the uncomfortability that it may cause anyone because I speak first and foremost for myself. If other people vibe with that then I love that too.

I acknowledge my position as a black woman and when issues happen in my community that receive international attention, speak volumes to larger societal patterns and the ways in which racism functions on the grounds and in broader rhetoric, I would be hypocritical to not use the spaces available to me to address all of that. Long story short, I will use my blog space as an engaging space to reflect on black issues and larger social issues as they relate to me and occur in my Oberlin experience. My opinions are my own that I take full ownership for and do not apologize for.

Lastly, I encourage folks to read the post I wrote in conjunction with this one entitled "Love, Mama." My recommendation is to read it when there is time to fully absorb what is written there. It is written from two different character perspectives with the assistance of some voices already present in the black community. In many ways, the post is an open letter of sorts that on a surface level speaks to a lot of the things that I feel often get lost in translation when national crises such as Ferguson and tragedies like Mike Brown occur all too frequently. Feel free to leave comments on either this post or on Love, Mama and share with me.

In love and action,

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