Individual students do not represent an entire race

The cover of last Friday’s BG News featured photographs of four black students. Each is asked to respond to the recent spate of racial violence in the town of Jena, La., [“Discussing the Jena Six,” Sept. 14].

Each student prompts readers, in one way or another, to look beyond themselves and try to garner wider community understanding and dialogue.

Emblematic of all, one student says quite simply: “We should all come together – black, white, Asian, everyone.” These comments speak to a desire for greater understanding through the incorporation of various viewpoints. They are a call for wider discussion. Where prejudice is concerned, no individual can stand alone.

It is interesting to me, and a little troubling, how The BG News chose to approach this story. Here, we have a tale of repulsive acts of violence, apparently supported and condoned by a prejudicial institutional power, that is, in this case, represented by the police department, the courts and the school itself.

It’s sad that The BG News has made itself part of the very process it is attempting to illustrate. The student snapshot aspect of the paper, usually alluding to a variety of viewpoints through the inclusion of various ethnicities, has decided in this case to shift focus to a quartet of black students to the exclusion of others.

While I haven’t read every issue of The BG News, I think it’s fair to say this doesn’t happen often, and can therefore be read as an intentional editorial tactic.

So what does it mean? Did The BG News deliberately run out and try to capture the voices of only black students? If so, what does this say about institutional prejudice? Are we supposed to see each of these students as representatives of an entire race? As if in each of them there was some biological, ethnological, black essence that could be pulled out held up for inspection? Is the logic really “they’re all the same, one is as good as another”? It would seem so.

While their voices call for diversity and inclusion, their pairing together as some monolithic racial “category” speaks not only to the exclusion of broader dialogue, but to the racist stitching together of black individuals into “the black race.”

– Brian Blitz Master’s student, Popular Culture