Bridge Building in a Divided Society
February 15, 2021
On February 11, 2021, the Student Government Association and Multi-Cultural Alliance of Blackhawk Tech invited Dr. Alexander Gee to speak to the BTC community about “Building a Bridge to a Just Future.”
According to research presented in the article “Racial Disparity in America: The Ten Worst States for Black Americans” from May 2020, Wisconsin has the worst gaps between its white citizens and its Black citizens in the metrics of incarceration, homeownership, income, and education gaps.
Fighting these gaps by founding the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting hope, transformation, and justice, Dr. Gee has been working to eliminate these divides across the greater Madison area for over 30 years.
In his presentation to the Blackhawk community, Dr. Gee talked about how those who are not members of the Black community can support their neighbors who are by being abolitionists, allies, accomplices, or ‘other good people.’ It is a continuum that people can move across and strive to become more engaged.
Abolitionists traditionally sought to abolish the practice of slavery. Today, that work continues in people who actively work to dismantle the institutions that perpetuate racism embedded in our society.
“Allies,” according to Dr. Gee, are “folks who can speak up and advocate.” People who have invested in learning about the experiences of those who are different from them and are willing to help amplify the voices of the underrepresented.
Accomplices, however, “aren’t quite allies, aren’t guilty, are in the passenger seat.” They stay mostly neutral and in their zone while commending the allies they know.
The final category was “other good people.” Other good people are those who are well-intentioned. They say things like, “I wouldn’t mind if ‘their’ locker were next to mine.” They try not to laugh at racial jokes, and firmly believe they would be friends with a Black person if one happened to be in their circle. These are the people who don’t build cross-cultural relationships and don’t seek experiences outside of their comfort zone because they don’t believe it benefits them.
Dr. Gee encourages people interested in moving from good people to allies and abolitionists to do three things: educate, donate, and affiliate. First, learn about American history and the way that freedom didn’t actually make the Black people in our nation free. Second, find ways to become affiliated with organizations that support more significant measures of inclusion and diversity and personally seek out cross-cultural relationships. Finally, contribute financially to organizations that are working to meet these goals.
To close out, Dr. Gee reminded participants that the road to being a bridge-builder, to being an abolitionist and an ally, is a journey. “Many people are interested in being the one who fixes the issue,” he said, “because then they are the conqueror. But the issue of fixing racism within society is one of a journey.” And any good person can begin their journey to ally Bridge Building in a Divided Society
To learn more about Dr. Gee and his work in Wisconsin, check out: Black Like Me Podcast (Twitter: @BlackLikeMeAG, Instagram: @BlackLikeMePodcast) or check out his organization's website at nehemiah.org.
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