What a difference a day makes. I felt so much better today.
Anywhooo, I just caught a little of Soledad O'Brien's Black Folks in A-merry-ca Part 2, and she had some of the usual "black community experts" who brought along some influential people in their lives. Ironically, for Tom Joyner, it was Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a man who has been in the news more than Michael Jackson lately. (Hell, even his O ness talked about the Cambridge beat down at his press conference. Although I don't think white folks will like what he said much. Read the comments after the article I linked.) Sorry people, but the good Doctor disappointed me again. When Soledad asked him about his neighbor who thought she saw a spook sitting by the door and called 911, he damn near apologized for his neighbor. Hell, he even offered to send her flowers.... Dr. Gates, you are a smart man with many letters and honors, but I.... rrriiinnnggg... wait, my phone is ringing....sorry for that folks, it was the Drop Squad, and they wanted to know if I knew Dr. Gate's Cambridge address. Let me stop. (Lord I hope my friends over at The Root don't get mad at me, but they should know me by now. There goes another blogroll. )
But seriously, I got a very deep e-mail from a writer and blogger who I am starting to respect more and more called Eco.Soul. Intellectual. Fam. wrote an interesting piece about the Harvard culture and a young sister who was thrown to the wolves by some of our cousins who inhabit it.
"Several months ago, a burgeoning female scholar by the name of Chanequa Campbell, who hails from Brooklyn, NY, was kicked out of her campus dormitory and not allowed to graduate for her association to a murder suspect. More specifically, she was the friend of the suspect’s girlfriend. The confusing part of this case is that while Campbell was banned and not allowed to graduate, the suspect’s girlfriend, Brittany Smith did graduate and stayed on campus.
Campbell, who says she is from a poor family and was not part of the black elite student circle, has pointed out that it is because of her socio-economic status that she was treated in such a way, and without the support of black Harvard students or faculty. The silence of black Harvard in the case of Campbell drastically contrasting the racket made in support of Gates illuminates the serious class issues that have caused serious boiling points in the African-American community.
Gates is an established historian known most recently for his documentary, “African American Lives,” a series connects noted African-Americans back to their complex lineages such as Oprah Winfrey, Tina Turner, and Morgan Freeman. He is at the zenith of his career. He has achieved what many scholars dream.
On the other hand, Chanequa Campbell was at the beginning of her academic journey. She too has been praised for her academic success, but since her dismissal her whole life trajectory is questionable. At a time when Campbell needed the utmost guidance and support from black Harvard faculty and staff, she was quietly disregarded, suggesting that her less-than-desirable background would possibly mar the reputation of blacks on campus.
Though many do not like to acknowledge the classism in African-American communities, it is prevalent throughout the group. It is a hideous historical social construct that is determined by more than wealth, but also skin color, hair texture, education level, and sadly how distant is one’s slave lineage.
Ironically, Gates, who in his African-American heritage series repeatedly points out the “white ” blood in him to the point that he smiles in delight when a DNA scientist tells him that he has more white blood than black, is nothing but black when the police come. Yet he is “too” black to be rallied and insulated by the black and white Harvard community. Yet Campbell, with her Brooklyn roots, who is a darker, young woman with blatant West African features, is too black, even for black Harvard.
Like in the days of DuBois, who was proud of his European ancestry (Dutch and French) and his Massachusetts roots from a community of free people of color who were educated and reasonably prosperous, his pedigree, which also included his physical characteristics, were perfect for the black elite of that time. DuBois’ elitist ideology was so heavy a belief that he campaigned for blacks to support his vision of the “Talented Tenth” or a group of black intelligentsia that would further the black race and lead the rest of the group. This idea was heavily contested by other thinkers and black activists of the time, but the idea and practice of an insulated, crème de la crème, black circle still remains.
It is not surprising that Gates’ (or should I say gatekeeper) name has been saved, and in some eyes, has been elevated, while someone like Campbell, who could’ve been the next Gates or Oprah, or perhaps furthered his work, is now forgotten.
It's amazing what a cup of hot chocolate and a good nights sleep can do.