The NAACP delved into a drove of issues affecting the African-American community and beyond at last week’s State of Black Leadership panel discussion. From education to gender relations to respectability, no stone was left unturned at the annual event.
Panelists included the infamous Taurean Brown, also known as @TheBlackVoice on Twitter; Dr. Jason Nichols, a lecturer at UMD; Moriah Ray, a senior government and politics major; Krissah Thompson, a staff writer for the Washington Post; Curtis Valentine, a Prince George’s County Board of Education member and Ryan Swann, an alumnus of the University.
The discussion began with police/African-American relations. Brown stated that there are certain things every single man and woman, especially those of color, should know in order to protect themselves in case you have a run-in with police:
- Police can’t search or seize your vehicle without consent
- Whether or not you’re being detained and what crime you’ve committed
- Jurisdiction laws and police codes in your area
Nichols argued that lapel cams would help exponentially since police brutality complaints in Los Angeles have dropped by 85 percent but Valentine wasn’t buying that as the sole solution.
“How do we get law enforcement to see us as people? Police used to threaten to call our parents. Now, they tell us to put our hands up.”
Valentine also discussed the need for an increase in male educators, who he believes are necessary to motivate kids who don’t have any other male figures in their lives to guide them in the right footsteps.
Brown agreed with Valentine’s sentiments but also called for a radicalization of the school system as a whole saying that the following needed to change:
- States should stop spending more money on prisoners than students
- Classes such as geometry which don’t relate to the child’s future should stop being taught. Brown framed it as “miseducation,” saying that we need more classes such as: how to balance a check.
- Teachers need more context and need to understand where students come from
The panel also expressed their thoughts on black leadership and where it stands today. Valentine believes that even though we’re not post-racial as a society that this generation takes President Obama and his symbolism for granted.
“The idea that when Barack Obama was elected, it didn’t mean anything for race relations is wrong. We’re not post-racial but we’re way further than where we were before.”
Soon, discussion segued into politics and specifically the Democratic Party. Brown urged audience to stop voting for the Democrats because they’re the better of two evils and pointed to Missouri governor Jay Dixon as an example of a Democrat gone rogue.
“Be educated with the vote you cast because that’s going to affect your future. As Malcolm X once said, blind allegiance to the Democratic party is a mistake. I’m not just going to give Hilary Clinton my vote in 2016, she has to earn it,” Nichols said.
Debate intensified when the topic of love and relationships was set into motion. Ray believes that men at the University of Maryland are extremely spoiled.
“Women fall for anyone because there’s not much to choose from. It’s easy for men on this campus,” Ray said as she also questioned the way men of this generation behave.
Ryan Swann argued a rebuttal to Ray’s point saying, “if you give attention to the wrong things, then we’ll do the wrong things. Guys only do what women pay attention to.”
Ray wasn’t satisfied with that answer though and said that what women chase did not excuse men from acting like fools.
When respectability politics came into the conversation, there was no one more competent to speak than Brown who wondered why we’ve accepted “white names” as the norm while “black names” are castigated as “ratchet.”
“To hell with respectability politics. What makes Billy John better than someone with a name like LaQuisha? We have to stop accepting whiteness as the standard.”
Ray also gave a personal account of how she attempted to fit in with her white counterparts in school but was still perceived as a “black girl” no matter what she did.
“We have to stop telling each other: that’s ghetto. We have to stop doing this to ourselves.”