Black Student Union creates debate space


Mckenzie Ford

EWU sophomore and Black Student Union event coordinator Felecia Muhammad gives examples of cultural appropriation at a BSU discussion event. The event was held on Halloween and addressed the idea of cultural appropriation through costumes.

By Shandra Haggerty, Reporter

The Black Student Union at EWU holds study sessions, events and meetings throughout the year for students to discuss real racial issues happening on and off campus

“I believe there should always be safe places for students to be able to voice their opinions about issues concerning them,” EWU sophomore and BSU event coordinator Felecia Muhammad said. “Our meetings are the perfect place for this.”

The BSU is a nonprofit cultural diversity organization and a resource for African and African American EWU students. The group gives members an opportunity to debate and discuss topics like race and culture freely.

On the evening of Halloween, the BSU met to discuss cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes and pop culture.

“By talking about different issues such as cultural appropriation within the black community we bring awareness and understanding to these issues so that going forward maybe something can be done to stop it,” Muhammad said.

Members discussed why some people dress up as another race for Halloween and believe it’s appropriate to do so.

“People think it’s cute or funny to try on other people’s culture for a day,” Muhammad said. “You don’t know anything about the culture or understand why it’s important, you reduce it all to a costume.”

Muhammad said she is tired of seeing people fail to face consequences for their offensive costumes.

“People are always trying to dress up as Pocahontas without knowing the story behind it,” Muhammad said. “People see the hot mess of a cartoon and that’s all they know of the story.”

A video the group watched called “7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation Debunked!” described cultural appropriation as dominant groups borrowing from minority groups who face oppression for their cultural practices.

“There’s a thin line between cultural appropriation and paying homage, “EWU sophomore and second BSU events coordinator Gracia Alzoubeir said.

Alzoubeir said that even people in the spotlight are guilty of cultural appropriation.

“The worst thing you can do when it comes to appropriating culture is make money off of it,”  Alzoubeir said. “The Kardashians are an example. They can post a picture wearing cornrows but call them box braids and get a whole stack of money.”

Discussion broadened to pop culture at the meeting with a presentation introducing an argument between musicians Drake and Pusha T. Some members of BSU felt like they had to agree with one musician or the other.

“Having to pick sides is making the divide in the black community larger than it already is,” EWU senior Jasmine Banga said. “It’s so pointless and unnecessary, distracting us from everything else that’s way more important like the lack of education in poverty-stricken areas. Things like that aren’t getting the attention they need because people worry about things like music drama.”

The group debated if it was possible for someone to appropriate something from their own culture. An image of Drake in blackface was shown to the group without context.

“The first thing you think when you see this is that Drake is a Canadian,” Alzoubeir said.  “You totally discard the fact that he’s black.”

The 2008 image of Drake in blackface that recently resurfaced again turned out to be from a campaign in which Drake was an activist. Some Members of BSU had been angry at Drake but others argued that they couldn’t judge him without knowing the full story.

“No matter if the students agree or disagree with the topic they are still able to voice their opinions without being judged or ridiculed,” Muhammad said. “Our discussions are very important because education is key to any change, we can not change what we do not know.”