Paper Summary

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(Re)Visiting the Black Student Union at University X Through Fictional Composite Storytelling

Fri, April 17, 4:05 to 5:35pm, Virtual Room


Fifty years after its founding in 1968, the history of the Black Student Union (BSU) at University X (UX)(pseudonym) remains largely unexplored. Much more is known about April 15, 1971, a day of unrest known as Black Thursday, that led to the occupation of the President’s office, the withdrawal of more than 100 Black students, and the expulsion of many others. While this event is an integral part of the organization’s history, the activism of Black students on UX’s campus is part of an expansive long Black student movement (Kendi, 2012). This paper aims to more adequately document the founding of this impactful student organization while also employing this history to construct a narrative that explores race and racism in the not-so-distant future.
Conceptual Framework
Critical Race Theory
Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) introduced the idea of CRT in education to understand school inequality and analyze educational policy. We draw heavily from Ladson-Billings and Tate’s (1995) conception of racial realism, the idea that racism would persist in American society. Ladson-Billings (2016) describes how CRT can be used to explain the continued inequity in education that people of color experience. This study, grounded in CRT, focuses on the following tenets and themes of CRT: racism as normal, voice or counter-narrative/counter-story, interest convergence, and Whiteness as property (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017).
Data Sources
To build on the history of the BSU at University X, this study draws on both primary and secondary sources to present a fictional story. The primary sources consist of newspaper articles from the student led paper, the Explorer (pseudonym), and university documents related to the creation of the BSU at UX.
Rooted in the CRT tenet of voice and counter-stories, we present the data on the Black Student Union as a fictional composite story in the spirit of Derrick Bell’s (1992) science fiction story “Space Traders”. Differing from a purely fictional story, we use data to develop a story “grounded in real life” (Solórzano & Yosso, 2016, p. 136) yet, set in an imagined future. Wing (2009) contends that “Narratives can be paradigm shifting, rupturing, revelatory, jarring, displacing, destroying, shatter complacency, and challenge the status quo” (p. 54).

Findings as Storytelling
The findings of this research are presented as a story, aiming to spark dialogue on race and positionality (Manglitz, Guy, & Merriweather, 2014) in higher education. The story is an extrapolation of Funderburg’s (2013) National Geographic article that asserts that the U.S. Census Bureau’s prediction that by 2060 non-Hispanic Whites will no longer be the majority is largely unimportant when considering social stratification based on race. The authors employ the context of the founding of the Black Student Union at the UX to imagine how racism will continue to bear down Blacks even when non-Hispanic whites are no longer the majority. Furthermore, this story reveals how Black students at University X were engaged in a struggle against racism over a number of years, rather than a short period of time.