In Discussion is a segmented dedicated to offering a space for young people to ask those in places of influence and power, questions of importance and impact.
Taji Chesimet is a vivacious, motivated and self-driven young man, who uses his understanding of self, inside and outside of larger social identities, to navigate his work. Interacting with people across all backgrounds, to address the most complex and uncomfortable issues with a candid, direct approach.
For issues to be recognized as prevalent in today's society it has become a challenge to bring in new fronts. On Wednesday June 28th, I sat down with Dr. Shirley A. Jackson. She is the department chair of black studies at Portland State University. We discussed a wide variety of issues from intersectionality and it’s origins in the term of multiple jeopardies. The conversation led on to talk about black feminism and comparing and contrasting white feminism from black feminism and basic womanism. Dr. Jackson says: “When I did my dissertation. I was researching African-American women’s activism within women’s organizations. I had a question that I was asking African-American woman: Do you consider yourself a feminist? There was this hesitancy to even talk about feminism. Because it was a white woman's thing. It did not take into consideration all of the intricate things African-American women have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. The way in which those women that I talked about feminism was one of: distrust, where they did not want to align themselves with white women and their activities or activism. For the reason of seeing it as detrimental to say, black men.
We went on to talk about reproductive rights (for black women) and about the 2016 campaign. We spoke in quite agreement on the relation of the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan to the 1935 poem by Langston Hughes ‘Make America America Again’. She goes on to say: “It became a campaign based on. Attacking people who didn’t agree, and silencing people. There was a lot of hate being fueled, which was extremely disappointing. What was even more disappointing is the way in which some people seem to have welcomed that spewing of hate or intolerance. How that has manifested itself in increase acts of violence against racial/ethnic minorities, religious groups, and queer/transgendered folk. This has been extremely disheartening to shed their skin and to show who they really are. The country that we hoped we were in is just isn’t. What is important to recognize is that when people are saying [Make America Great Again] it is as though we weren’t great. It is as if greatness only exists when a certain population is in power.”
Throughout our discussion our opinions on pressing issues in American society has been one of enlightenment and hopefully from this we can see progress for a more knowledgeable society. We close our discussion where I ask: Where do we go from here, as a people fighting for justice? She states “Make themselves knowledgeable, rather than simply critical. It is very easy to simply be critical about things around you but not understanding why things are the way they are, the history of this country, the history of treatment and oppression. But also the way in which people even feel they are being oppressed or that other people are ‘given their stuff’ it is not farfetched to jump on the bandwagon that certain things to be given back to them. When they do so they are not acknowledging their own privilege but their own hypocrisy.”
Taji Chesimet, 14