African and African American Students “Face” Reality

By DeVol Tyson

 

On Thursday, Black Student Union and the African Student Association collaborated on the event titled “Same Color, Different Race” at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall.

This event was a first in that it was the very first time the two organizations collaborated on an event.

The event was held to discuss the various relations between African students and African-American students on the IUB campus. The organizations compiled a panel of “experts” from each organization. The panel consisted of:

Leighton Johnson, a junior Hudson and Holland Scholar and member of the Black Student Union

Merhawit Ghebresilassie, a junior and Vice-President of the African Student Association

Stephanie Johnson, a graduate student and the Social Chair in the African Student Association

Chinedu Amaefula, a graduate student in the SLIS (School of Library and Information Science) Program

Chinedu Onye, a senior at Indiana University, of Nigerian ancestry.

The facilitators, Yohana Gebremichael and Aigner Hart of ASA and BSU respectively, conducted the questions throughout the event. The facilitators started the event by a silent ice-breaker where audience members stood up if the question about them was true such as “I’ve avoided the other race.”

Throughout the event, the audience expressed their feelings on how Africans and African-Americans treat each other on campus and within their own social realms. Students claimed that there is more unity among African students both American-born and foreign-born. Ghebresilassie said that she felt as though Africans are forced to learn about their culture and were forced to accept the social norms that come along with their respective cultures.

When the question of cultural differences arose, Johnson said that there are definite cultural differences. He said that they stemmed from slavery, in which masters purposefully instituted divisions among slaves. Despite the audience and their various feelings, many audience members believed that Africans and African-Americans are indeed culturally different.

There were many subjects discussed such as ethnic/cultural pride, attitudes toward the other group, media portrayal, beauty (the light-skinned versus dark-skinned complex), the use of “African American” versus “Black” and the Willie Lynch theory – the concept that was devised to keep slaves subservient.

After discussing the difference between the cultures, many students felt convicted on their attitudes about the other “race.” Eric Love, Director of the Office of Diversity Education said that “by design” Africans and African-Americans are different. Love claimed that members of the two cultures have systematically been separated. He also said that a mix of the cultures would “upset the status quo” of popular opinion.

Most of the event was focused on the differences between Africans and African-Americans, but Love saw that there were some similarities between the two cultures. He said that both cultures share a common history and that “we all come from Africa.” Love said that the common ancestry is the one tie that connects to the two cultures.

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