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Why Black Studies Matters

On African American, African and Black Diaspora Studies

“I have known many black men and women and black boys and girls who really believed that it was better to be white than black, whose lives were ruined or ended by this belief; and I, myself, carried the seeds of this destruction within me for a long time.”

James Baldwin

Damon Davis, Libations For Those We Sold, 2018

In a 2016 article for The Atlantic called, “A Dialogue on Race and Speech at Yale”, staff writer Conor Friedersdorf spoke about recent race protests on campus with Yale University student Bria Godley. In her essay, “On Shame and Moving Forward” published in the student publication The New Journal, she writes about the challenges of distancing herself from her natural hair in favor of straightening it and finding excuses to avoid attending meetings with groups like the Black Student Alliance in order to integrate into mainstream culture at Yale. But she also acknowledges that she is constantly aware that she is “other” on the outside yet hopeful that one day she can “envision a world in which I think of my blackness and I don’t have to think of all the ways in which it makes me vulnerable, and others frightened.” In her exchange with Friedersdorf, Godley identifies a looming problem at her elite, self-segregated university: most students graduate from Yale having never taken one African-American Studies course. White students, in particular, tell Godley they don’t take the course because they, ‘“don’t understand” what it’s like to be a minority” and see the course as unrelated to their experience. This example of racial apathy underscores why African American Studies matters and should be a requisite study for all students at universities.