I don't know about you, but when I think of how best to celebrate Black History Month, I think of sending an email exclusively to the Black student body, calling them "Black Sun Devils," reminding them that yes, – believe it or not – it is Black History Month and providing information about events they've most likely already been made aware of.
Oh, and don't forget including links to tutoring help. And, to add insult to injury, not sending the same Black History Month resources to the rest of the student body. Signed off by Deputy Vice President and Tempe Dean of Students Cassandra Aska.
That is exactly what ASU did on Feb. 16! Bravo!
I felt so welcomed and included when, as a multiethnic student, I received an email calling me Black. Thanks, ASU, for acknowledging my identity in such a respectful and tone-aware manner!
Now thankfully, in my case, even though I am multiethnic, I do identify – racially speaking – as Black. So something like this doesn't really bother me. However, I can't be sure that this is the case for all multiethnic students on campus who received this email as well. When I put down my demographic information in my ASU application, I marked both white and Black, and it's likely what other multiethnic students did too.
But I'm not just being called Black, I'm being called a Black Sun Devil. Thanks, ASU, for making it clear that for some reason if you're Black you're somehow different from other non-Black Sun Devils. Again, very inclusive and oh-so-tone-aware!
All I can say is, I sure hope when pride month comes around, I get an email calling me an "LGBTQ+ Sun Devil." Keep that same energy!
In all seriousness, seriously? Did no one read this email to themselves or someone else before hitting send? And I'm not the only one who was rubbed the wrong way by this. Many of my fellow Black Sun Devils were posting about this on the ASU Snapchat story, calling it out as weird and borderline racist – rightfully so.
"They could've worded that better," said Penda Sisay, a freshman studying civic and economic thought and leadership. "Most definitely wasn't expecting it, which is why everyone reacted the way they did."
Regardless, as the email continues, it links to a website for Black History Month events. Aside from maybe just coming off as repetitive to students who may have been aware of these events already, such as me, this isn't terrible…
That is until you realize that this website was only provided via email to 1,345 first-year Black Sun Devils, according to an ASU spokesperson.
If a website lists events labeled as welcoming to all students, wouldn't the logic be to send this email to all students? Shouldn't Black History Month be a month for all people to come together to celebrate Black excellence? What a very inclusive choice to instead share this website only with Black Sun Devils.
The email also included links to some tutoring resources for us to reach out to if we were having some trouble academically. While many mass emails to students from the University include these resources, it was out of place given the context and the purpose of the message.
Now, I think the question here is obvious: why would you link to tutoring resources in an email that’s about celebrating Black History Month that was sent exclusively to your Black students?
This is weird and even slightly racist if you do just the smallest bit of reading between the lines. And again, it's not just me getting weirded out.
"If you're trying to speak about Black History Month and how you're excited that, as a Black student, I am staying in your community, why are you adding a link to tutoring services under it?" Sisay said. "That just looks very wrong."
I emailed the University outlining my concerns, asked why it was only sent to Black students, and why the University chose to include tutoring services.
In response, an ASU spokesperson said the email was part of the University's LIFT Initiative and "guided by the ASU BSSI (Black Student Success Initiative) Community of Practice established at ASU in 2020 as part of the UIA (University Innovation Alliance) BSSI to develop and launch a personalized and comprehensive plan to positively transform the experience of Black students."
Perhaps in the future, you should have someone outside of these organizations read your emails before sending them. I don't understand how this slipped through without someone flagging it for a rewrite.
At the end of the day, I'm sure the University didn't intend to come off this way in their email. I'm sure that they genuinely did want to try to be kind and welcoming to their Black students. But when I, and others, read this email, those welcoming feelings of inclusivity clearly did not translate.
Your "Black Sun Devil,"
Edited by Kate Duffy, Jasmine Kabiri, Sophia Balasubramanian, Piper Hansen and Grace Copperthite.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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