Why Everyone Needs to Take an Africana Studies Course

When I was picking my classes for the current semester, I didn’t have a particular fourth class in mind, so I decided to enroll in AFS 130: Introduction to Africana Studies. It has three different curriculum fulfillment credits.  I had no real opinion going into the class except that I was slightly apprehensive about the fact that I was not the biggest cheerleader for the Black Lives Matter movement.  Truthfully, I wasn’t a cheerleader for them at all.

Having gone to ten different schools in my lifetime, you would think that I would have gone to at least one diverse school, but you would be mistaken.  Gettysburg College is by far the most diverse school I’ve attended -- which is sad considering that we really aren’t exactly diverse.  I’m embarrassed to say it now, but I was one of those people who would roll my eyes and think “Obviously black lives matter.  All lives matter.  They’re just attention needy and want pity.”  I was not outspoken at all, so I never aligned myself with All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter or anything, but I definitely was cognitively aligned. 

I was just so ignorant.  Granted, when the movement really started I was only fourteen or fifteen, so I was not particularly politically aware, but regardless, I was so naïve up until this semester. Really, what I’m trying to say is that I’m the epitome of white privilege.  "White privilege" is another concept I'd denied until very recently.  I mean, it’s 2016 and 2017, the laws are the same for everyone and there isn’t segregation and we are living happily ever after (except for a few isolated coincidences), I’m no more privileged because of my skin color than anyone else is! I love Martin Luther King Jr. and I think discriminating based on race is awful.  Clearly I’m not that oblivious, right? (I was wrong).

Source:  Tom Fernandez 28

When college admissions season commenced, I begrudgingly sighed and complained that I was waitlisted or accepted to my top schools because I was merely a mid-Atlantic, upper-middle class, white, Catholic school girl.  The flaw in my logic was that I saw that as an issue.  The fact of the matter is: yes, other students might have been accepted who had lower GPAs and test scores than me, but they had a very different high school experience than I did.  I didn’t work any jobs except for babysitting here and there for extra spending money.  I took SAT prep classes.  I went to one of the top private high schools in Pennsylvania and was the daughter of parents with multiple Masters degrees who were well-equipped to help me throughout my entire educational career.  I am by no means discounting the hard work other white students put in -- Lord only knows I worked incredibly hard for my grades -- but I automatically had a better chance for admittance because of my environment.  So yes, I might have had better stats on paper, but there is so much more to the picture than GPA and SAT scores.  I still got into a great college, and am thriving here.  I am not less of a student because I was waitlisted at Ivy League schools.  

My other big issue with the Black Lives Matter movement was patriotism. My father is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and has served over twenty-five years; he is still an active duty member.  My life literally centers on the Navy and pride for our country.  I didn’t see a way to reconcile being a proud American and being part of a movement that was pointing out some very fundamental flaws within my country.  Now, I truly don’t understand how I thought that.  My family is not the representation of our founding fathers who created discriminatory laws, we are not the representation of every other white person who has wrongfully contributed to the pervasiveness of racism.  I am privileged, but I can use that privilege to help those less privileged and to make a change.  A large fraction of the African American population is still denied the right to vote because of mass incarceration -- often wrongfully accused and harshly punished.  I had no idea that was even a thing until last week when we watched the documentary 13

Source:  Wordpress

So, take an Africana class.  As my friend and classmate Danielle pointed out, “Be enlightened from a different perspective” and don’t fear what you don’t know.  I was uneducated and made an opinion out of fear that I would end up criticizing myself and my family.  It’s okay to recognize your shortcomings, but it is not okay to let fear of being wrong inhibit your ability to be a better and more loving citizen.  Whether or not I agree with every single thing in AFS 130 is beside the point, but I have learned how to formulate an opinion on things I avoided at all costs before.  I have learned a more complete history of fellow American citizens who were tortured in slave labor camps (i.e. plantations) by white southerners.  Most importantly, I have learned that I can and should create a positive change; being silent and idle is dangerous.