Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Michael David Cobb Bowen — An Open Letter Regarding the Claremont Protest

via Cobb 

I was accepted to Pitzer in 1978, but chose USC instead. I have always held Claremont in high esteem. I am truly surprised to see that such a place has come this sad state.

Like a lot of black folks in my generation, I felt that it was my responsibility to become more attuned to racial sensibility - to achieve a higher level of sensitivity to those people and conditions that might lead to oppression. It was a constant theme in my youth during which the very term 'black' was coined and people questioned having been 'Negro'. During that time as well, many of us went from passive observation to active participation in both directions. In 1967 many of us were adamant about looking for 'safe space' and determined that could not be found anywhere at all in the USA. We looked to Cuba, to Brazil, to Ghana. Similarly during the Vietnam war, many looked to Canada as an escape route. But in the end we found, even through assassinations and jailing, that racial integration in America was the far superior road for practical and moral reasons. It was not simple, it was not easy. It was worth it.

Leaving my community to attend Catholic School outside of my school district was not easy. I wasn't Catholic. But I wasn't afraid and I was willing to test my skill against people of the sort I'd never known. I never sat in a classroom with white suburbanites until I was 14 years old. The experience was full of surprises. It didn't take long for me to recognize the greater priority I could put on Christian similarities than racial differences. That was, after all, the spirit of integration over separatism. But it wasn't only religion there was also sports, music and most importantly, learning, the reason I attended school in the first place.

If your studies of history have been satisfactory you would know that around the time of the first Star Wars film, affirmative action regimes were in flux and the Bakke decision came down. It expressed something of the common sense we already knew from experience, race should not be the sole factor in choosing whether someone does or does not belong. We were proud of our ability to find common purpose in achieving athletic, academic and character excellence at my Catholic school, even though I was not and am not a Catholic. I did not integrate my prior self into nothingness but into common purpose. We were a solution, in the chemical sense. Mixed yet distinct. We kept stirring, we stayed infused. We understood that it took effort. Over time, many of us became bonded and changed.

Read the full article HERE.