Big Black Babies: The Infantilization of a People

Today’s world is full of bigotry. It doesn’t take much effort to stumble across a plethora of Egg-Avatared Twitter accounts spewing some good old-fashioned hatred across the webosphere. I may be one of many or I may be one of few, but I have pretty much learned how to tune much of that out. At the end of the day, it rarely actually affects me. Yes, I have heard some racist stuff thrown my way before, but, by and large, it has almost no tangible effect on my life. As evidence of the growth in American Society, these actors and their actions are now rightly referred to as a “fringe.” It is so 1960s to call a Black person a gorilla that the recent attack on Leslie Jones shocks the soul. As it should

…to an extent.

And to an extent, all of the vile, really really bad stuff should shock us. That’s a sign of a healthy society. What is not a sign of a healthy society is for our very classically liberal values to be derided as the cause of constant unavoidable shock as they seem to be on college campuses and in Social Justice training seminars across the country. From Yale to USC, college students are being taught to be shocked by everything from White Boys with dreads to a faculty member stating that his job is to create an intellectual space. The product is a never-ceasing, deafening wail reminiscent of that time you had to watch your little sister and had absolutely no idea what you were doing. And that is what is becoming of many African-American college students.

They are being taught to be Big Black Babies.

The sad consequence is that those Black students who choose to engage in discussion and debate without their impenetrable emotional shields of “you’re a racist” or their safe spaces, these students who choose to not take offense (or to take it and put it away for later) are seeking to have dialogue but are shushed and petted like infants.

If my use of the terms “baby” and “infant” offend you, that’s fine. I will also use another analogy. Black people, specifically students, are treated by college administrators and liberal politicians like the Enchanted Rose from “Beauty and the Beast.”

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Black students are seen as a beautiful flower to be cherished and protected. This view is flattering, considering how Black people have historically been viewed in the United States. However, on the flipside, the Enchanted Rose was delicate, so sensitive as to lose pedals without even the slightest touch. It was so tender and easily harmed that it needed to be contained… trapped away from the rest of the world. Thus, it remained, as beautiful and unbothered as could be, tucked away under this glass shield. Isolated. Unable to connect. Unable to receive what anything in its immediate surroundings would receive as well. This is not to deny the reality of the hurt and pain that Black students feel from time to time on campus. It is, however, to note that this real pain is taught to students much of the time. It is also to exhibit that many Black students choose not to be harmed, hurt, or offended by the micro-est of aggressions.

When the Black community is brought up in discussion, I often end up infuriated as the values I hold dear and the beliefs that I consider close to me are often never espoused as a part of this Black community. In essence, the monolith that is “Black people,” the “we” in so many Twitter clapbacks, the “us” that runs from the lips of so many CNN commentators never seems to have room for this Black man, “me”, or “I.” Luckily, I graduated from college before this fully kicked in, but the effect that this may have on other Black students who wish to make the most out of their college experience disturbs me. There are still some Black students who don’t want to view the University as their “home” but as their “battlefield of the mind.” There are some who like the uncomfortability of opposing ideas and the exercise in proving them wrong or altering your own beliefs, people like Ruth Simmons, the First Black President of an Ivy League University. Yet, what college campuses around the nation are doing is bottling up these students in order to protect their oh-so-delicate leaves from the horrors of intellectual debate and free thought and speech. What they are doing is saying to the Black student “Shhh… stop crying. You don’t need to walk, I’ll carry you around.” This is a form of bigotry in and of itself. Coined as the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” it is the idea that Black people are not intellectually strong enough or civilized enough to handle the stresses of debate. Black students will break down at instances where their White counterparts would jump at the opportunity to grow intellectually. Black students should have muffs placed over their ears while us civilized folk have a discussion. In a sense, this bigotry harkens back to some of the oldest racist stereotyping available. Allow me to produce another analogy.

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To me, it feels as though Black students are being treated like Wild Gorillas walking amongst proper men and women. Docile and content to mind their own business lest you thrust some part of modern human society upon them, then they lash out savagely in protest. It seems as though the consensus on college campuses is to not poke the apes, with the “pokes” being different or opposing ideas. The expectation is not that Black students can prepare well-thought out rebuttals and produce a compromise in step with the values that Universities and Western society tend to espouse. Black students are expected to lash out with anger or crumble with sadness when confronted with intellectual challenge, an expectation that is not shared in regards to many other students.

Now, as I mentioned before, in a healthy society some things should continue to shock us…to an extent. But “America is the land of opportunity” should not reduce any student to uncontrollable and harmful frustration and marginalization. And if it does, this does not mean that that response should be expected of all students.

The administrative banning of words this low on my “really really bad things to say” scale is not a step forward for the country, it is regression away from the very values that our ancestors fought for and with which to be allowed to engage. Some Black people don’t want to be treated with separate rules for language because, as we have known for sixty-two years now, separate is inherently unequal.

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