Battling Negative Stereotypes

Thomas Dilworth

On Sunday, March 25, Black Entertainment Television (BET) host, Jeff Johnson, made an appearance at Colgate to speak on the issues of African American activism in society. In celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance Center, Johnson helped to educate Colgate students about the lack of leadership among today’s minority generation, and how this negligence of responsibility is affecting our generation at large.

One of Jeff Johnson’s issues with the black community today stems from the African American expectations of musicians to educate and lead us into the future. Being African American and loving the original form of hip hop, I look towards music as a form of inspiration and guidance. Unfortunately, after hearing Johnson’s well-articulated and authoritative voice, I come away from Sunday’s lecture as an African American looking to take steps towards change.

I write to all of my African American sisters and brothers at Colgate University because we need to take steps and lead our generation to a future of great humility and honor. Johnson stated, “Let’s stop looking to define ourselves based on our major,” and begin to fight for our common cause of equality and freedom no matter what you are studying. At the end of the day when we get that little piece of paper recognizing our accomplishments, do we venture off into our respected fields just to make money?

This brings me to another misguided figure, in my opinion: BET’s Bob Johnson. During Sunday’s lecture, Bob Johnson was a prominent figure amongst discussion. This issue pertaining to the BET network owner provoked many responses from students. Such responses arose due to his ability to build an industry dedicated to the African American population, but not to change the oppressive reality that we constantly confront. Yes, we rarely see positive influences in the music industry, but what about the motivation and influence to actually send our young generation to do something positive in our lifetime? Jeff Johnson explained, “We have musicians that can tell us all about their false lives, but don’t know how to conjugate a verb […] Even worse; they cannot tell us what is on their minds.” Where’s the education? Where is the dedication, the passion, the love, the drive? Where are you?

However, even though we continue to destroy ourselves with complacency and ignorance, there are still handfuls of us who are trying to combat the negative stereotypes and false ideologies of our own people. In a final statement from Jeff Johnson about the African American population, he states, “There has never been a time, even during the civil rights era, when the entire African American populace was a part of the movement. There are enough of you students in this room to make a change.” That said, we must cease to solely concentrate on obtaining jobs and focusing on our major and instead concentrate on making a change for ourselves and future generations who are going to need your help. Let’s get it.