“The Black Experience”: Indictment No. 3

In the third installation of their Amherst Indictment series, Staff Writer Aaron Holton ’25 addresses feelings of ostracization faced by Black students within the Black community on campus.

It would seem that, at the turn of the 20th century, and in the wake of the great liberation movements across the continents of South America, Africa, and Asia, that nationalism, not race, has come to dominate the political zeitgeist. And in this new world, race, which we once considered quintessential to one’s being, was reduced, or perhaps better put, made subsidiary to the nation-state — that now, one instead defines themselves by their nation of origin and its creed.

Yet, in doing so, race’s plurality is swept to the side, and the relativism that constitutes leftist intellectualism is consumed by a new potent objectivity: an attempt to define the experience of race, or any race, in the broadest and most expansive terms available to one.

In particular, I’ve observed within the community I belong to, not by choice but instead by circumstance, that to “be” Black is to constitute a particular “thing” — a particular “experience,” a particular “culture.” And those who might find themselves outside the bounds of these stipulations are made to exist in a state of fear. They, as stipulated by those around them, no longer constitute “a” — or, what we so often say — “the” Black experience.

This experience is perhaps not-so-Black but assuredly not-so-white. And those with the bravery and courage to voice this observation are met with laughter and mockery. Shame and guilt. They’re considered perpetrators of white supremacy, guilty of a crime they have no part in and derive no pleasure from.

Rather than address these ills, the Black community instead places emphasis on rejecting whiteness, so bound up in fear of perception from whites that we’re unable to address the inadequacies of our own communities. Even if we may acknowledge this injustice, the onus ultimately falls on “white supremacy,” as injustices on our behalf could never be of our own doing.

So as often as I critique, I admit I do not hold an answer or the answer. As so common in my writing, one committed to democratic principles rests their faith on the polis to move forward — to collectively agree on answers to seemingly unsolvable qualms. And I hope that from reading this one may think of their position in this world as something outside, and not within, themselves.