Black Students Should Hold The Leadership Positions in the Black Student Union


Some of the Woodson BSU last school year. Photo courtesy of the Woodson Black Student Union

Nyela Walker, Opinion Editor

Imagine that five years ago, your community was finally given civil rights. You are now in college and are still racially oppressed. Finally, in October of 1969, you are given a safe space to go and share your burden with your brothers and sisters. Florida Technological University, now the University of Central Florida, created the Black Student Union (BSU). It was also a place where black students went to seek help financially, emotionally and politically. Soon, there were BSUs in schools all over the country helping black students embrace who they are.

The Woodson BSU has been made inclusive, which I, as a black student, support, because all races need to learn the struggle of being black and know how they can help the black community, especially given the racial injustice in America. However, I do believe that leadership roles need to be held by black students. The BSU has six leadership positions made up of four black girls and two white girls. The white girls have beautiful hearts and good intentions. However, given the history of why the BSU was created, this is an opportunity for black people to have leadership positions. The BSU should have black officers because of the difference between an ally and a leader, the history behind the BSU and the authentic representation that a leadership role requires.

The two officers refer to themselves as “allies,” and I would agree. However, an ally is there to help and support, while a leader is there to lead and be an example to others. Yes, any race can lead, but it is not as effective to black students considering we are the reason this union exists. 

Woodson students at a BSU meeting last school year. Photo courtesy of the Woodson Black Student Union.

Leading and influencing other races is not a reason the BSU exists. “I may not understand, but I stand” does not mean stand in a position that should be held by black students. The black community will need white people to stand in front of us like the white women who created a human barricade to protect black protestors from Louisville Metro Police, but figuratively speaking, stand with us and not where we need to be.

For centuries, minorities have been denied leadership roles, rights and opportunities. Over 50 years ago, this union was made for our voices to be heard, given the generations that we have been oppressed and silenced. It has been helpful the past six months knowing there are white people who are asking what they can do to help fight for racial equality, but what we need is to be listened to and not spoken over. While the two white BSU officers are not speaking over black voices, they are hindering that opportunity for black students.

The first two words in the Black Student Union means that it must be authentic by having black leaders. Anyone can represent anything, but for it to have true value, it needs to be authentic in all forms. The BSU has no guys in leadership roles. To have representation in the BSU, we need both genders because black men are oppressed and are qualified to lead with their experience. Letting one white person in a leadership role will soon bring all races representing black lives. Since Woodson’s Black students can truly understand the experience of racial oppression, blacks should be representing the Union.

From a poll of 45 Black Student Union members

If Woodson wants the BSU to be inclusive, I support diverse races as members, but the leadership positions must be held by Black students. Either the name needs to change to something more inclusive than the “Black Student Union” or keep the foundation of the Black Student Union true and change Woodson’s current message. Times have changed, but we can not forget the history and reason behind it or else it will lose all meaning.