Black Student Union President, J. Greer, and Student Senator, Josh Coleman, discuss the social structures of underserved groups in higher education.
J. Greer: My name is Josh Greer, AKA Josh G and K., AKA J. Greer, AKA Juice.
Josh: My name is Josh too, but I'm Josh Coleman. You can just call me Josh.
J. Greer, before we hit record on this, we were talking about social constructs.
J. Greer: Yeah.
Can you talk about social constructs at a national level?
J. Greer: At a national level? When we're talking about social constructs at a national level, I feel like what a lot of people fail to realize is what's rooted within the foundation of America's system. So, when you get these systems, that's when you get these social constructs. And the foundation of America system is white supremacy. So when you have white supremacy, you get these social constructs that are created to keep white males in power of this hierarchy that they've created. You get constructs like race. You get constructs like gender. You get all these types of constructs. I read this book one time and a very powerful quote in that book was "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's sheds." (Audre Lorde)So what that's saying is, these constructs that are created are tools to keep them in power within this hierarchy. So these are the types of systems that we have to understand. These are the types of social constructs that we have to understand. I feel like that's the first step in trying to achieve change in some sort of way. We have to be able to understand these constructs.
I would say even take a step back and recognizing constructs.
J. Greer: Yeah, exactly. Recognizing them. Seeing them and recognizing them before anything is the very first step.
Josh: Yeah. You got to realize that it's also, these tools are the ladder that built their economic base. You said, how it's race, ethnicity, all these factors that people turn a blind eye to, it takes away from minorities that don't have an economic base. They built the tools to make sure that their education is always superior, so now it makes other minorities, blacks especially, struggling to find a good school that can go into. As a kid you had to go to a certain school. I can't go to the school in my neighborhood because my mom doesn't want me to have an education that isn't really invested in by the government trying to get shipped off to a school in a different area. Trying to use one of my neighbor's addresses to just go to a proper school so that way my future can be bright.
J. Greer: I'll even go to say that when we're talking from an economic standpoint, black people and enslaved people built this nation economically.
J. Greer: It was built on our back to build this nation up economically. Cause you gotta understand, when you're talking about things like trade and production and things like that, within slavery, that's where a lot of these things were produced. Slaves were in the in the cotton fields picking this cotton so that way it can be used as capital and it can be used as trade. Small things like that is how this nation was built.
J. Greer: Yeah.
It's already been set in place and now we're talking hundreds of years that has already set the scene for something. And so now there's already this huge disadvantage starting generations prior and now we're playing the game of catch-up.
J. Greer: Oh yeah, most definitely. And I like how you said hundreds of years because what I always try to get across to people's heads, I was just telling my friends this at lunch, is people don't realize slavery was around for about, let's say 300 years.
J. Greer: More than 300 years.
It's been around for a millennia.
Josh: We ain’t going to call it short [laughs].
J. Greer: Exactly. So, if you have a system that's been around for hundreds of years, people don't realize, slavery has been around America longer than it hasn't been around. So it's like how do you feel as if these systems arn’t still in play? When people say racism is dead, it's 2020... Well first off, what have you done to change it? You know what I'm saying? And how is this system that's been in place for hundreds and hundreds of years just going to go away within the past, let's say 40 50 years. You know what I'm saying? Cause that's how long we've been living out of out of segregation. And I would argue even less time than that.
Josh: Yeah. It's always been the inventions of blacks to make sure America keeps growing. You got to understand, not having an economic base, you're trying to create things that make your life easier. The air conditioning unit, Frederick Jones. You got the Almanac vision Banneker Almanac. He wanted to make sure he knew how to talk. You got William Grant curtain rod support. You don't want people looking at your house. I don't want people looking at my house.
J. Greer: The stoplight, Gary Morgan.
Josh: The elevator (Alexander Miles)
J. Greer: These things that we use every single day...
Josh: The door knob (Osbourn Dorsey)...
J. Greer: Every single day were created by black people...
Josh: The fire extinguisher! (Thomas Martin and other inventors)
J. Greer: These things were created by black people to economically... First off, economically advance ourselves. You know what I'm saying? Let's put into perspective, I'm starting a black owned business. My ultimate goal is to economically advance my people, but then these inventions are almost swept from under our feet and it's used to economically advance the people that have oppressed us for hundreds of years.
Josh: And that's because the majority of their wealth is in their hands. You make an invention, you have a creative idea, someone comes with a check, you're like, "okay, I can help my family. I can get all my dreams right now." Yet later down the road, they are making millions because you were trying to solve your short-term problems.
I even want to say that it even goes past just being black... There was a certain invention...It was the telephone! I believe it was invented by an Italian immigrant and Alexander Graham Bell kind of swept in because of just like having the economic advantage of being able to pay for something just right then and there. And so now you're looking at a bureaucratic system that has already foundationally built up the walls that it needs to keep out some versus others while they're staying in. I really like that you've brought out some inventions. I think that's a great point to point out. Jack Daniels, the whiskey was actually shown to Jack Daniels by someone that was black.
Josh: We knew how to do it. We made the right drink [laughs].
J. Greer: And the funny thing about that is these inventions that can create economic advancement and generational wealth for a culture. Like the man who showed Jack Daniels this whiskey, if he was the one who was able to take credit for it and he was the one to make the money from it, that's generational welfare for his family.
Now that we have a foundation of showing basically advantages versus disadvantages, let's fast forward it to 2020. Where are we now with this?
Josh: Across all these institutions you have minorities, especially blasts try and create their own businesses.
J. Greer: I feel like the problem within black owned businesses being able to reach the heights that they can reach is within the black community. Black people don't support black people, and that's a problem.
Josh: I honestly feel it's not because we don't want to, it's because it's always trying to make sure you're trying to support yourself at the same time. You gotta think about it. If my white peer starts doing business, their family can throw money, makes sure it's coming up and they can ask their friends, they have financial wealth already there to give. Yet, you started black owned business, "hey, this my first shirt that I'm selling. It's $10." "I ain't got $10" so their growth is slower.
J. Greer: To highlight on what you just said, you asked a brother, "hey man, I got these shirts for sale. You know, I'm still trying to start my own business. These shirts at $10." "I ain't got the $10." But then you got $20 to go buy some Nikes though. You get what I'm saying? It's like, we put our money and our resources elsewhere than keeping the dollar within the black community.
It's being prioritized differently.
J .Greer: Exactly.
Okay. I see, you know, the idea of blacks don't support blacks now. That makes more sense cause I'm like, that doesn't make any sense when you say that right off the bat.
J. Greer: Yeah, when you first say it doesn't make much sense, but then when you break it down it's like, 'okay, I'm starting to understand that.' It's like, I'm putting other things over my people in the investment of my people, ultimately. And we don't see it like that a lot of times we don't see it like that.
Yeah. Let's, let's narrow it down now to now UNC. we are a predominantly white institution. A PWI. Do you know the statistics on this?
J. Greer: We actually just did this the other day. The issue we are, if I get this wrong, I don't want anybody trying to crucify me cause they were trying to do it the other day to me. But it's either...
Josh: Before he says it, a lot to a little.
J. Greer: Yeah. I believe it's either three or 4% of the students on this campus identifies black students. And that number would go to about... I'm going to do the math. Yeah, let's do the amount of math really quick. 4.5%.
Josh: And we are unrepresented group. The LatinX population does have a large group up here and they are still underrepresented. On this campus, any minority group is underrepresented.
J. Greer: Yeah. And see what that rounds out to is about 500 students. And you have to put that in perspective that there is about 12,000 to 13,000 students on this campus.
Josh: Think about how it is in the classroom, being the only black male in the classroom, max, maybe three. And you already know them because you didn't see them all three years here. I know you be in the same class. Ain't nobody new.
Without putting names out there, what is something that you have experienced, that goes on this realm of what we're talking about being at this university?
Josh: People are scared.
Scared. Okay. So fear? Like, like what? You're walking down the street and they don't want to talk to you that they don't make eye contact? What is scared?
Josh: Scared on this campus is, I can be asking for pencil in class. Scared can be me just trying to hold the door, and it's like a fear that you see. That person who does the action does not see the fear that we see them show, but it's there. "Can I have a pencil?" "Oh I thought you were about to do something else." Not saying that they'll recover, "Oh yeah, I'll give you a pencil." Cause not everyone heartless. Holding the door. "Oh, let me grab that." "Oh wait, I thought you were going to do something." I'm just trying to be a gentleman. In the rec center, " Can we play with you?" "Oh no, the team is full." "So you're on court 1 and court 2, that's where it comes to. It can be a battle." "Nope. We got court 1 and we got court 2 and we go and play." Cause we wanna make sure that we can commune and fellowship with each other.
J. Greer: One of the things I would say is the lack of catering to marginalized students on this campus. And what that means is because, when we're talking about systems, to refer back to systems, when you're talking about predominantly white institutions, predominantly white institutions have the same foundation that America was built on because that's how they started as a predominantly white institution. So when you're coming into these institutions, how are they going to cater to your people and people who go through a common struggle as you, if you're not the predominant group? So like when a lot of times when you hear faculties, speaking of, you know...
Josh: the students that they are 'trying to help.'.
J. Greer: Cause we're not the majority on this campus. We're the minority. So what students are you truly catering to? Like for example, a simple thing like black haircare. That's something that's really big.
Josh: Not showing up in our bookstore. Just got a few. We've got pics now.
J. Greer: Yeah we've got some pics. Exactly. So it's like something as simple as that because...
Josh: They've got Miss Jessies too, I think.
J. Greer: They got Miss Jessies? I never use Miss Jessie's though. And if anybody's hearing this, and they ordered something from the bookstore, Cantu does not work on our hair. It doesn't, I'm just giving you that a heads up right now.
Josh: And if it works on your hair, it's not good for the health of your hair.
J. Greer: Exactly. So one thing that you have to realize is, when you come to a campus, when you come to school, one, it's a culture shock. two, I'm not from the same background as this person and now I have to live my life on this campus, you know what I'm saying? Like, now I have to navigate through these spaces that I've never navigated through before and there's nothing to cater to me to help me get through these spaces easier. So like when I bring up the topic of black haircare, if I can even do something as simple as do my hair properly.
J. Greer: Exactly. Something as simple as that. If this campus can't even cater to something as simple as that to me, then how am I going to be able to navigate to these spaces?
How do you feel comfortable at this point?
J. Greer: Exactly.
J. Greer: I'm the president of Black Student Union on campus. Ultimately, what the black student Union is an all-inclusive group. So it's not only for black students, but what we encourage is black students or students of color. to join But it's ultimately for anybody. If you're from a culture, we're for you. You know what I'm saying? We want allies there. Anybody there who is for the culture and for uplifting, motivating, and advancing our culture. We meet every Wednesday from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM in the Harrison Den. What I like to describe it as is a home away from home for black students. Because when you come to a predominantly white institution, you have a lot of different things thrown at you and you have, for a lot of us, we have to navigate through these white spaces and all we see are white students and you don't get, you don't get to see people who look like you. And when you start to see people who look like you, it makes you feel a little bit safer. It makes you feel a little bit more comfortable. It makes you want to succeed more, if that makes sense. When you're surrounded around people who look like you, who are all shooting for the same goal, that gives you that motivation. So that's what our foundation is built on is being able to create that space for black students. What I want to do with my goal is to, is to see all of us graduate and all of us go into the real world and all of us just be able to advance ourselves, advance our culture as a people.
Josh: I am the Senator for the Monfort College of Business. I collaborate with multiple different colleges on campus. Aside from Monfort College of Business, my focus is making sure that all of the programs go well and making sure that students feel included. Yet I serve on the board with the rest of the senators of other colleges and we address the issues of our students on campus, no matter their race or color. Yet, while I'm doing that, I made sure that I represent minorities, understanding that only 4% of blacks are on campus, only with LatinX, there is, I believe 20+ plus percent, yet they are underrepresented. To our Asian Pacific, under-represented. To multiple other cultures, underrepresented. So we throw events to ensure the inclusivity and equality for all students on campus and by serving on student affairs committee. That is an open committee and anyone can be a part of it. You do not have to apply to position to try to get any event that brings everyone together on campus. And so I serve on that committee. I helped throw the tailgate last year and we're constantly throwing the Townhalls to hear the students' voices because students, as soon as they experienced a problem, they'd rather tell their friends, go home and just let it ride out and hope that it's scooped underneath the rug. But my job is to grab those issues and those concerns and make sure that progress is being made and pressure is being applied in the places necessary. And so I collaborate with J. Greer. I collaborate with ASU and are making sure that different clubs and organizations get a platform to speak. As well as we're doing SPA right now, trying to make sure that people who have ideas get funding, trying to constantly bring money to the campus, but bring a sense of belonging to the campus. A lot of people leave UNCO and feel as if they don't want to be a UNCO bear their whole life, they just got here and got their paper and got out. It's about making sure students actually left home for a reason to find a home.
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