My favorite part of any Black (diaspora) party is near its end when my Black friends and peers can finally pry their sweet-speckled, starry bodies from the sidelines, to which they were previously confined by the sheer number of alabaster bodies raving and writhing uncontrollably to Konshens. This is expected by the seasoned Black party party-goer. In fact, we have come to expect that our parties will be “gentrified” — a term that we’ve come to laugh off while swallowing our discomfort.
While I realize that many of you are unaware of the “gentrification” of the Black party scene (and in other minority party scenes as well), let me illuminate why this “gentrification” is so pernicious.
You’re taking up space — literally.
There is so much privilege in being able to enter a space that was created by Black students for their intercommunal enjoyment and — bolstered by the fact that there are five white bodies for every Black body on this campus — completely whiten it. And think of it as just “another party.” And throw your body around, shoving your Black peers, literally forcing them to retreat to the sidelines.
There is privilege in not knowing what it feels like to be a minority. To be unconscious of what it may feel like to be the only Black face in a lecture hall filled with white faces. There is privilege in moving through an institution that is overwhelmingly populated by bodies that look like you. A place where most of the faculty look like you. A place where you seldom (if ever) have to think about how you are perceived because of the color of your skin. A place where you can tell yourself that you “deserve” to be here because of your merit and not have to think twice about whether other people think it’s because you’re a “diversity statistic.”
There is privilege in not needing safe spaces — ethnic enclaves where you feel free to be yourself. There is privilege in not needing respite from constantly being interrogated about your hair and the way you speak.
There is also so much privilege in being able to completely disregard Black Student Union (BSU), Stanford African Students’ Association (SASA), Caribbean Student Association (CSA), the Black student organizations that throw these parties — what they represent, the students in them, our experiences.
Don’t miss my point. This is not a disinvitation to all future Black events by any means. There is value in mindfully entering a space that wasn’t constructed for you and engaging with the culture. But that requires you to be aware that that space wasn’t constructed for you in mind. It requires that you understand how, in your numbers, you can completely shift the landscape that wasn’t created for you. It requires that you remain aware of the space you’re taking up.
I cannot speak for every Black individual on Stanford campus. I don’t know if they all view this as a problem; I don’t know if they all care. But what I do know is how it makes my Black friends feel when they are made to feel like minorities in their own spaces, and that is impetus enough to call it out.
My point here isn’t to provide answers for this problem. Further elaboration by me can only be done to put the ball in your court and to emphasize that the onus is not solely on us to provide the answers. With this awareness comes a responsibility to act. There is a burden, a weight, that accompanies this awareness that should be dealt with on both sides. We need to carry this weight equally. This comes, first, in recognizing this as a problem. That’s what I’m doing. The next steps would be to figure out what we can do on both sides. And that shouldn’t rest on us alone.
While this issue may seem “trivial,” let us not forget the same disregard for minority communities and the spaces they occupy is the same gentrification that tears down homes and erects luxury apartments.
Contact Abena Boadi-Agyemang at aboadi98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.