One of my favorite topics that we’ve covered in this course thus far is the creation of counter-spaces. I am intrigued by this concept because I have created these spaces for myself at Muhlenberg without knowing that it had a name attached to it. What is more, it intrigued me to know that counter-spaces are something students of color across the country are constantly creating for themselves. I think my interest lies in the naming of these spaces, as well as, the perception of these spaces by students in the majority body (i.e. white students). But, in learning the language around how to identify these spaces, I think it is also interesting to consider how students of color create layers of counter-spaces.
For me, I know that I have a community of black students that I can reach out to if I’m feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with white students/faculty/staff or white environments on campus. I know that there is a crop of students that I can go to express my emotions. However, I have also created a smaller community, a smaller circle of people, that can relate to my humanity on an even more intricate level. These students are other black and brown queer students. These are people that recognize the intersections of their identity, choose to walk in their truth, and carry a lot of love and compassion in their being and in their spirit. These connections have proven to be the most fruitful for me over these last four years, in that, I was and still are constantly able to perfect and work on balancing my masculine and feminine energy in a way that doesn’t feel attached to the gender binary or composed under the notions of masculinity and femininity as imposed by black and white communities. What I mean by this is – it has been and continues to be important for me to construct counter-spaces that are open to the many freedoms that exist outside of social constructions. The smaller counter-space(s) I have been able to gift myself with remind me that being queer is resistive, and it is beautiful, and it is necessary – to be unapologetically all of those things. In identifying that it was imperative for me to create counter-spaces to counter the spaces already presented to me, I am drawn to the way black student communities are perceived in general on campus. Is it possible to feel doubly invisible? Does this feeling of being doubly invisible translate into hypervisibility? How does it become more challenging to navigate certain academic spaces and social settings when, as a black queer person, you’re actively working against all social constructs supported by the institution and majority populated students? I know this is not the experience of all queer students, but I know it has been the experience of some of the people closest to me at Muhlenberg. We need representation, we need acknowledgement of our existence, we need validation.
2 thoughts on “black and queer, and here – even if they don’t always see us”
As Maia mentioned in her comment, I think it is interesting how you were able to develop a counter space without knowing that the term in the first place. This goes to show how one can subconsciously develop a safer space within a community without fully acknowledging it. What do you think would happen if Muhlenberg held talks or made the concept of a finding and creating a “counter space” more public to the community? Would people go out of their way to find these spaces? Would this be beneficial or detrimental to those who have already found a counter space on which they can rely on?
Bree, I found it interesting how you spoke about the creation of counterspaces for yourself while not even knowing that the term counterspaces existed. It was just natural to you. You mentioned how other white students might feel about these counterspaces which is something that struck me. I remember in class one day someone brought up how on Muhlenberg College tours, students might point to the multicultural house and claim that it is a place to do free laundry, as well as a place for affinity groups to meet. For me, this struck me as white students viewing students of color’s counterspaces as insignificant and depleted of value. I believe that many white students on this campus do not recognize or understand the need and the importance of these counterspaces. This goes back to ideas brought up in the book “why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” The misunderstanding of the need to come together as a marginalized group with a shared identity and shared experiences. This misconception that black students might be self-segregated as a statement, rather than the need to bind together as a collective and embrace each others narratives. So many white students on our campus must have deeply misguided conceptions of counterspaces. Similarly, you mentioned how you have “created a smaller community, a smaller circle of people, that can relate to my humanity on an even more intricate level.” Another example of finding that comfort and solace in likeminded individuals that could potentially be misinterpreted by white students. It is disheartening to know that so many students remain uneducated about things like this but I am happy that you brought it up in this post.
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