The New Generation Speaks out; Student Leaders Discuss Racism, Love, Sex and the Black Male-Black Female Thing

By Walker, Nicole | Ebony, November 1997 | Go to article overview

The New Generation Speaks out; Student Leaders Discuss Racism, Love, Sex and the Black Male-Black Female Thing


Walker, Nicole, Ebony


TO naysayers and others who constantly deride 20-somethings for being selfish, materialistic and irresponsible, read on.

An exclusive Ebony survey of presidents of student bodies and Black student groups from Morehouse to Howard and from Harvard to USC revealed a new collective image of the Black leadership of tomorrow.

The 14 dynamic leaders interviewed, members of the so-called Generation X, are socially conscious, politically active and completely committed to meeting the needs of their campuses, as well as the larger community. These charismatic presidents possess a healthy optimism, a firm grasp of national affairs and public policy, and they have some very definite ideas on topics like racism, reparations for slavery, Black male-female relationships, religion, and sex and romance in the '90s.

FORTY ACRES AND A SCHOOL

RACISM can be found at the core of many of the major issues the campus leaders identify as affecting Blacks today, which include poverty, limited access to education, a lack of property ownership and dwindling community support.

And although these student presidents may have only two-decades-and-some-change worth of life experience, they already know the price this nation will pay if it keeps giving lip service to the ill effects of racism.

"With the assault on affirmative action and programs that benefit minorities, I think the racial situation in this country will become much more intense and volatile," says William Sellers, student government president at Morehouse College.

However, Ekumene Lysonge, Fisk University's Student Government Association president, believes the fear of a violent future will be a potent catalyst for race reform.

"I think people are starting to look at race and say, `Oh, this is a problem here in America, and it's something we need to address now,' especially with authors writing books about the threat of an all-out race war," Lysonge says. "With that kind of scare looming very large across the country, things will get better out of fear."

Most of the presidents agree that if America wants to survive and prosper in the 21st century, she must launch an all-out assault on racism and its related problems. But they have mixed feelings about the best course of action for the government to pursue, especially regarding the issue of giving Blacks reparations--or at least a formal apology--for slavery.

Although a majority of the campus leaders believe Blacks are entitled to reparations, they are divided over the issue of an apology. Nearly half of them believe that a formal apology is a necessary, albeit symbolic, first step toward making amends.

"Although slavery was over 100 years ago, there have been problems ever since, so in terms of symbols, an apology is nice," says Charles Belle, president of the Organization of Black Students at the University of Chicago. "But in terms of seriously addressing the issues, as far as reparations are concerned, the government needs to focus on programs--education, health, employment. That's a much more positive way of making amends."

On the flip side, the other half view an apology as irrelevant to Blacks.

"An apology seems kind of obsolete at this point," says Patricia Thompson, president of the Black Students' Union at the University of Southern California. "It [the government] apologized for the Tuskegee experiments; how many times can the government say `I'm sorry?' I do believe, however, that we as a people should have certain reparations to get equal footing to compete in this world."

A few presidents fail to see the need or the possibility of Blacks getting either an apology or reparations.

"I really can't see the government being at a point where it will give us anything to repay us for what we've contributed to this country," says Morenike Christian, Student Government Association president at Spelman College. …

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