Readings:

  • Dear White People (Justin Simien, 2014)
  • Martha Biondi. The Black Revolution on Campus. University of California, 2012 – Introduction, Chapter 2 on SF State Strike

Darris Young was such a kind and genuine character and I am so appreciative that we got to hear him speak in class today. He came from the Ellen Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland and shared so much wisdom with the class. He began the class by explaining that he was raised in Oakland and the community used to be very diverse, separated by race using the blocks in the city. He explained just how ridiculous much of the horror of his time seemed to him while he was younger, finding it hard to believe that dogs were being sicc’d on people and the “n” word was used.

He shared an important story from his personal life where he was driving with his great-nephew and waved at an Asian man passing the street. After referring to the man as Asian, his nephew called him racist because he referred to him solely by his suspected ethnicity. He posed the question, “Am I a racist or am I color conscious?” His social justice lesson still has me thinking about this question. Am I racist or am I color conscious? Are we truly comfortable describing ourselves in terms of race and ethnicity? Are we comfortable using race and ethnicity when describing others? He explained the journey that Black identity has been on, from the negro to Afro American to African America to Black- and the struggle to ever see each other as human beings if they are always defined by race.

Then he dove into the real meat of his conversation- mass incarceration. After sharing with the class his history with incarceration, I felt extremely humbled to be in the presence of someone who had obviously been through so much and still pulled himself up and dusted himself off- truly demonstrating resilience in black existence.

He talked about the recent increase in prisons built in California compared to the low numbers of colleges built. He talked about the increase in tuition that coincided with an increase in prison guard salaries. He spoke about the overfilling that occurred in all of those prisons. Darris has obviously been through a lot in his life and he was so willing to dive into his personal history in order to further explain his experiences.

 

I really appreciated the amount of time he spent explaining the multiple different measurable ways in which the Ellen Baker Center had been successful in its movements. He named AB109, FUBU, 1400, Prop 57, and more. I was so impressed by all of these wins for social justice and I am honored to have listened to him speak. It was super interesting to think about who is really affected by mass incarceration and ultimately it is the families of those who are put away. In this way, I think the high poverty levels directly connect to the lack of education and support for people who try to pick themselves up from their figurative but nonexistent bootstraps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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