Respect: The Inextricable Link Between Black People and Black Culture By Sophia Cheng

Illustration by Riya Charora

From flicking on ESPN and watching Kyrie Irving sink a three-pointer to listening to DaBaby while doing math homework, consumption of Black culture permeates almost every aspect of Americans’ lives, including those of Pinewood students. With the recent protests over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the nationwide awakening to systemic racism, learning about the history behind Black culture and taking action for those in the African American community have become more crucial than ever.

Junior Gabrielle Harris feels that consumption of Black culture should be done only with respect.

“I feel like to an extent, it’s good to share cultures . . . we just need to make sure that people are still respecting Black culture and attributing it to the people who created it. I’ve had personal experiences with people at school who like rap artists and NBA players, but they’ll also try to say the N word even though they’re not Black. I think you have to draw a line; if you’re going to consume Black culture, you have to be respectful to Black people themselves,” Harris said.

Fellow junior Magnolia Lemmon thinks that the lack of diversity in the Pinewood student body largely impacts how her peers consume Black culture.

“I think it’s interesting that so many students here associate Black America with the things they see in the media and pop culture instead of actual people because . . . people aren’t really exposed [to the latter] and perhaps don’t have an appreciation for the Black community outside of entertainment and popular media,” Lemmon said.

College counselor Marvin Coote believes that Pinewood’s lack of conversations about heavy subjects also contributes to ignorant consumption of Black culture.

“I don’t think most people here intentionally appropriate culture in any direction, but we should have conversations so people understand why something may be insensitive,” Coote said.

"If you’re going to consume Black culture, you have to be respectful to Black people themselves” Gabrielle Harris, '22
Illustration by Riya Charora

Lemmon thinks that Pinewood must take structural action because she has seen the firsthand effects of a lack thereof.

“I think with the recent uproar and realization that we’ve all had...it is crucial that Pinewood does something to support its Black students. I know that, from talking to Black students and alumni, the overwhelming sentiment is that they felt like they couldn’t be themselves here. It’s not really outward racism but just a sense of not belonging and holding back about talking about this matter,” Lemmon said.

So how can Pinewood actively take a stand to support its students?

For Coote, one of the greatest tools of educating people and spreading the word about racial injustices is simple.

“I think we should have more conversations, and I believe that Pinewood could be a much more accepting place if we were open to having more difficult conversations as opposed to just saying they’re difficult,” he said.

Harris agrees with this sentiment, and she has already seen progress in this direction.

“This year in my classes, we’ve been having a lot of good talks about race like when we read [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn]. In history, we’ve also been learning a lot about the history of America and slavery. I think that’s really good, and I think we definitely need to continue the conversations that happened over the summer,” Harris said.

To sum it all up, Coote simply wants every student to feel good about themselves.

“I think it’s really about making sure that everyone knows that everyone at Pinewood belongs here, no matter what background they come from,” Coote said.