Hannah Pederson, Online Managing Editor
From 1-2 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the Connection Café, the Black Student Union held a panel discussing black love and sexuality with club President Victoria Miles, student Raven Walker and Americorp/STEM Service Coordinator Christopher Davis and Vice President Shakita Etheridge facilitating.
The majority of the available seats were filled, with some students standing to listen to the panelists discuss black love, internalized racism in relationships with black partners, the sexualization and fetishization of black bodies and love in the black church.
Miles began the event by providing a brief, overarching definition of black love before moving on to the discussion.
“The concept of black love is very complex, it’s usually the act of loving another black person and I feel like this act is very complicated for a lot of different reasons,” she said.
Miles described her personal experience struggling with self love in an area that wouldn’t accept her unless she appeared “less black”.
“In order to be what people deem attractive and what was deemed worthy of love, I would do things like always straighten my hair, I would attempt to lighten my skin with bleaching creams or face washes,” Miles said. “Systems of whiteness, especially eurocentric beauty standards, plagued every nook and cranny of my life and it affected how I viewed myself to the point where I didn’t accept myself as being black and I didn’t want to be black.”
She explained that loving another black person is a radical act, because with the current systematically racist institutions in place you’re taking a chance on someone that can be lost at any moment.
Davis discussed how he had viewed his own blackness as unworthy, and alongside Walker talked about their shared experience having parents that actively encouraged whiteness. He went on to explain that black love isn’t about skin color, it’s about a shared struggle.
At this point, a man standing in the back row interrupted the speakers to ask them if they thought it was more important to be black or to be a part of American society, and what it meant to them to be black.
Walker explained that for him, being black in America is still a struggle despite all the progress the black community has advocated for.
Every panelist followed his lead, including club advisor Vicki Howell-Williams who had been sitting in the front row, student Donovan Saunders attempted to clarify by separating the terms American and black american, until Custodial Services Manager Patrick Carter gave the man a satisfying explanation and he went on his way.
Walker turned the conversation to internalized racism with dating other black people, sharing her experience of being told she wasn’t cute because she was black.
On the other hand, Davis used his experience being fetishized for his features to breech the subject of the fetishization of black men and the stereotypes he encountered.
When the topic of allyship came up, Davis condensed it into one simple message, “when black hate comes up in conversation, confront it,” he said.
The panel turned to racism and sexism in black love, with Miles discussing the hypocritical nature of the expectations placed on black women and girls.
“White patriarchy is forced on black women,” she said. “Black women are raised to be independent and strong because black men are pulled away from the family structure. My partners want me to be vulnerable but I was raised not to be.”
After this the panel transitioned to talking about the sexualization of black women’s bodies, which Miles tied back to the era of slavery.
“Black women were deemed sexually insatiable to justify rape and sexual abuse,” she said. “Black women didn’t own their own sexuality, your body was used to create more bodies.”
This led to a discussion of the fetishization of black bodies, and Walker brought up the point that things deemed sexy on black bodies aren’t on black bodies, but are instead more valuable on white bodies.
“It wasn’t that they (her partners) were interested in me romantically, it was just aspects of me,” Miles said. “Fetishizing and loving are two different things, loving is loving every aspect of someone.”
The panel ended with Davis and Miles sharing their experiences in the black church, his with homophobia and hers with modesty culture.
If students are interested in attending any future BSU meetings, the club meets on Tuesdays from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Health Education Center room 207.
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