I said here yesterday, I thought the Cheerios commercial was cute! But I'm not ready for a 'post-racial' Howard University and I never will be.
I'm just not going to pretend that the idea of White women as trophies or 'better' than Black women doesn't exist among some of our men. I'm not going to act like Black women are not often represented in the media as unattractive and inherently problematic. I'm unable to forget centuries of 'big Black buck' propaganda or the words of certain White women whose interest in Black men is centered around a fetish for just that. I refuse to act as if the number of professional athletes who date and marry non-Black women is some sort of grand coincidence. And because this video brought all of those thoughts to mind, I'm not going to dismiss the Black history of my alma mater and just view this video as college kids doing college kid stuff: releasing a wack music video shot on campus. I didn't put myself in mountains of student loan debt for this! This is not my Howard, not on any level.
But is this Howard today?
The video dropped on May 30th, a few weeks after the student body went home for the summer. Though social media keeps folks connected long after classes have ended, it's hard to gauge what the on-campus reaction to "Mr. Football" would be without kids sitting in the dorms talking about it. I came to Howard in 2002 and I am certain that this would have been fodder for some heated debates on The Yard, in the student newspaper and in some of our classrooms—the sort of debates that made our college experience so valuable. But I'm not so sure that these '90s babies—folk only a few years my junior— have much historical context about race and racism. In the era of absurd talk of 'post-racial America' that is set to the backdrop of ever-present racial disparities in hiring, housing, imprisonment and, of course, education, it seems like many young people feel that color just isn't a big deal. Cause, hey, we have a mixed-race president! NO EXCUSES, amirite? Can we wait to get post-racial until we're post racism?
I’d hope that the current students of my beloved alma mater would stop short of putting me in some ‘radical racist’ box for feeling as I do about this video—I’d want anyone who’s been Black in America to stop short of that, even if they don’t agree. However, I just really need this new generation of our young adults to understand why I feel as I do. A White graduate filming a music video on Howard's campus is hardly the biggest problem facing HBCU students or alumni, but image and representation matter. Culture matters. I would want for the next Jillian Parker who steps on that historic campus to leave understanding why such a video would stir up problematic feelings and not to write that off as some sort of hating. And, more important, I would want the "Mr. Footballs" of Howard University to decline the offer to participate in such a video.
Jamilah Lemieux is the News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY.com.