Remarks to Academic Council,
Faculty Assembly Room
December 10, 2014
As one of the few black men on this faculty, I could not let this opportunity pass without offering a few remarks.
On Wednesday, April 19, 1989, a white middle class woman, a promising young investment banker at Salomon Brothers with a degree from Wellesley College and Yale University was raped as she was jogging through Central Park, New York. The suspects were five black and Latino young men, some with dubious school records from Harlem. The police coined a new term for what they were doing: they called it wilding, to describe the beating up of random victims. On May 29, about five weeks later, the New York Times wrote: “A 28-year investment banker, jogging through Central Park, was attacked by a group of teenagers. They kicked and beat her in the head with a pipe and raped her. The teenagers, who were from East Harlem, were quickly arrested.”
The furious response to the rape of this young woman reverberated throughout the country. It even reached the hallowed halls of Wellesley College where, on May 4, we spent a considerable mount of time debating that dastardly crime. I listened in horror to how some of my colleagues characterized these youths. A few days ago, I looked up the meeting of Academic Council of that day. Under Reports, it reads:
A. President Nannerl O. Keohane
1. Class of 1982 Victim
President Keohane reported that members of the Economics Department, the Alumnae Office, and she [meaning the President] have been in close touch with the family of the Wellesley College graduate who was attacked recently in Central Park. The family wishes to express gratitude to members of the College community for all the support they have received and for the respect for their privacy. Letters are most welcome at this time.
There will be a twenty-minute prayer service at 12:15 p.m. in the Houghton Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, May 10, to which all members of the College community are invited to pray for the alumna’s continuing recovery. Later when her condition stabilizes, members of the College community might wish to do something collectively for the alumna and her family.”
Quite clearly, here was a definite affirmation that white lives matter.
Fortunately, this young woman recovered and yes, the five teenagers who were imprisoned for several years were found to be not guilty. In 2002 their conviction were vacated after a rapist confessed to the crime. In September of this year New York City paid these young men 41 millions dollars for wrongful conviction.
In retrospect, I understand why my colleagues and my college were so concerned about the rape of an alumna. I would really appreciate if my colleagues and my college would show the same respect, concern and love for the 400 plus black young men who have been killed by white police officers over the past year.
I am the grandfather of three black young boys who are 14, 13 and nine years old respectively; the uncle of four young men all in their twenties and thirties; and the grand uncle of six boys. You must believe me when I say that the fear of Black parents that reverberate around the country about this matter touches me even here at Wellesley. I hope my colleagues here can share in my pain as I like to believe that share in their pain on other issues.
BLACK LIVES MATTER; ALLOW US TO BREATHE.
Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Professor
5 thoughts on “Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe’s Remarks to the Wellesley Council”
Rape as other violent crimes, is a serious offence in anywhere. It spells horror that any victim–regardless of race, class, or ethnicty, has to endure for life. The perpetrators in many instance may not even see physical punishment. However, in contrast to this, we have both seen and heard about the sadistic killings of young black men by police officers, who, in most cases have not been arrested or indicted for their actions. Today, this is now the rule rather than an exception. The question which now remains is how are we who hold degrees from prestigious institiutions, and volumes of experience teaching, sharing, and, caring for others, to tell the next generation of these evils? Do we wait for the next killing to take us by surprise?
We witnessed this racist mechanism in force: in Florida, Missouri, New York, and elsewhere. It is permeating the social order of the hour.
Dr. Cudjoe is on point whjen he says black lives do matter! Each and every one must count.
All lives matter doc. The culture of death has afflicted the American ghettoes to a very high degree. Policing in these neighborhoods is never an easy task. The residents of these neighbourhoods can rattle off the names of the police officers who took out the local drug dealer, but ask them to name the last 3 persons killed by black on black crime and they will draw a blank.
Having worked with black kids for a number of years I can tell you the major problem is the break down of the family. Too many kids are being raised by granny and becoming sexual active before age 15. By 18 most black Caribbean kids (girls) in North America are parenting a child with an absentee father. The father no longer matters he can be of any race. At the top of my head I know at least 5 of these girls, don’t blame them, coming from a home without love and seeking the unconditional love of a child is what drives this cycle.
The scene is diffrent with African kids from Africa. The Africans have a culture similar to Hindus where family is highly valued. Yes mom, dad and child live together. They raise their children. Sadly for black Caribbean kids the family structure was destroyed during slavery and it became the norm for the absent dad. The dad have no role model to follow except the one he grew up with a father that he never knew.
The divine model of man, woman and child is still the best model. To those kids who were wrongly arrested, I must say one thing I like about the American justic system is they compensate and compensate well in these high profile cases. I am sure their short term pain is long forgotten.
To surmise, there is a need for strong black parental role models. The Cosby show provide that, I look at it religiously for many years. Unfortunately, Bill is now facing a host of women claiming rape, there goes my hero image.
The excuse through the comparison of Black on Black crime / homicide dilutes the problem of unpunished homicide and classism through racism. It matters not in regard to Black on Black homicide when discusccing the subject of misuse of power by law enforcement. Law enforcement take an oath to protect and serve everyone including suspected perpetraitors. When police abuse power and resort to lawlessness, they have crossed a line into becoming the criminal. Law Enforcement Officers should come from exceptional moral stock.
Also, Mike Brown is only being discussed because of questionable manner in which he as a suspect was treated even in death. Lets be clear, He was a criminal. Had that been my relative that he was robbing with such force, I would have shot him as well…..but I am not Law enforcement. Trayvon was murdered by a civilian and Garner wronged by our judicial system. I sympathize with their families.
This article demonstrates how racism in any country cuts through all class and background and Prof. Cudjoe’s example sheds light to those facts.
Prof. Cudjoe was very privileged to have attained a fantastic college education in the U.S. prior to T&T’s independence. He was one of the very few to have had the opportunity to travel abroad in the 1960’s (PNM reign), tuition paid and attend the top Universities (I love Fordham, a great Jesuit school and extremely expensive), Cornell (won’t even touch tuition)…and to sit as the Director of a Major Bank in Trinidad, and serve as a member of the Cabinet. Such a life is great, but if you are poor, black or of African descent (but still poor) and live in the good ole U S of A…you better know your Miranda Rights.
In America, the white Police officers do not care how educated you are, how connected you are, how many boards you sit on, how many government officials you can influence in another country…for if you are black, hispanic, or even Indian.. you are treated as a regular house “N-word,” a wetback or a stupid immigrant. Just ask Cornell West or Forest Whitaker and they will tell you that in this country…color matters and ignorance is alive and doing well within the police department and in the community.
If you live in Trinidad and think that the USA is great…wait until you get pulled over by the police in this country…and good luck finding a public defender.
Professor you are being extremely careful….perhaps your article should have delineated some of your own personal experience with racism in American. I have thousands of events that I can share, many come from schools I attended while living in Boston (during busing and school integration).
Most wealthy Trinidadians that live in the US are insulated from racism….I think you should have delved into what it is like (as a privileged Trinidadian) to teach at an all women’s college that just allowed transgender students and the discrimination they faced or how you deal with racism in America.
I think with your connections, you do not need to worry about your grandchildren…they are pretty much insulated. It’s the poor blacks and latinos that are walking down the streets that are being killed. Just tell your grand children and children to drive their SUV’s carefully and follow protocol when they are pulled over. No need to worry.
Won’t you agree that Racism humbles you…especially if you are from Trinidad (where we always had a black dominated government), or of African descent, had a privileged life and only had to deal with the poor Indians or Africans of Trinidad. It makes you feel as if you’ve lost control.
For me, because I grew up poor, it empowered me and made me persevere because of the hardship I encountered while living in a poor village. Perhaps, all of the wealthy of Trinidad need a dose of racism to wake them up. Then they will focus on honestly helping the poor.
Racism shakes you, it peals away each layer of your hope and it tries to make you subhuman. For me and many of my fellow poor Trinis who have lived the unprivileged life in the USA, we were always worried about our safety, our jobs, our children and our future.
African Americans have never lived in a country that was ruled by Africans and they are lost. After almost 600 years of oppression it was becoming hopeless…but the young, intelligent children are taking a stand. My own children are outraged and we discuss this in detail. These children are going to change the world and the same will happen in countries all over the world because the poor and underclass are waking up.
We all have our own battles to fight…the glass ceiling, women’s rights, sexism, agism, homophobia, racism and the list goes on…but this battle…
this racism needs to stop now, especially in Trinidad and Tobago where we should all have equal rights. I love Trinidad and the people…There is no place like home and the stuff that goes on in the American is nothing like Trinidad. We have our differences but we are blatant…we say it to your face…
In America, they harass you, they put you down, they charge you a higher rate at the bank, they rob you, they jail you and they bring you to your knees begging for help.
Trinidad is the wealthy person’s paradise. Perhaps the poor will some day take a stand like the young people’s movement that is taking place in the US and fight for equal access and end the oppression of the poor.
“Prof. Cudjoe was very privileged to have attained a fantastic college education in the U.S……I think with your connections, you do not need to worry about your grandchildren…they are pretty much insulated. It’s the poor blacks and latinos that are walking down the streets that are being killed.”
Oh AfroBuddahSunGod, and who needs the late John Agitation, or Tommy Joseph,Sprangalang, Errol Fabien ,and Sistaz Rachel Price, when we have this cyber comedian Chica ,to amuse us daily folks? Her escapist diatribes, are beyond hilarious, si?
Talk about contradictions in her typically condescending,anti African people arguments.
In her estimation ,African folks in her adopted land America ,and her T&T,are an endangered species ,but only if they are poor.
Hey Sistaz Indrani/Indera-Gandhi, Ennis Crosby dad Bill,has more millions ,than Dr Cudjoe, or your 2 Hindustani PMs, could ever accumulate in their lifetime,and yet could not be insulated from the wrath of a ‘nigger hating,” racist, Euro Caucasian barbarian.
‘Me think’ I get it-Indians across the globe ,like yourself ,are chiefly fine ,unless they are stuck in our La Trinity, or worst yet ,some African dominant , political fiefdom.
Let me guess Sistaz Indrani / Indera-Gandhi, you ain’t of the view that members of your tribe-be they rich or poor-are also victims, of subtle, and more so , blatant forms of discrimination, all across ,North America, and Europe,in like manner, to dem historically lazy,unambiguous, shiftless, evil Africans, huh?
Keep dreaming,mi brown /black skin- white mask chica! You and kind ,would derive more benefits,in pointing fingers at African folks for all your peoples historical woes,while giving your much adored Euro massa, a pass.
As a neo progressive humanist myself ,I share the notion ,that empathy for the other ,is a wonderful human quality. Ain’t it about time ,we escape our narrow/constricted, social prisons ,and strive to become change agents?
Solidarity matters people!
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