On Jan. 26, Dr. David Augustin Hodge Sr. spoke on the issue of racism, naming and genealogy in his presentation titled “What is it like to be black?” This event was hosted by The Northern Plains Ethics Institute at North Dakota State University and the YWCA Cass Clay.
Hodge is the first speaker in an NDSU series titled “Learning the language of diversity and meaningful inclusion.” This will be a series of presentations and discussions used to widen the horizons of NDSU faculty, staff and students.
“I resist with everything in me, every kind of oppression,” Hodge said. After the death of George Floyd on May 25, protests occurred in Minneapolis and spread throughout the world. “Those who were marching didn’t look like me,” Hodge continued, saying that many non-blacks were marching to try to understand what it was like to be black.
“Each of us has our own lenses of how we view the world,” Hodge said. Class, education, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. influences the way we view the world. Hodge explained how others need to understand their own social location so that they can go into the world with intelligence to understand otherness.
“Race is not biological, but a social construct,” Hodge explained, saying that all people originate from Africa, therefore racism is to dislike yourself. Due to this idea, the concept of “racism is absolutely silly,” Hodge added.
Throughout history, black peoples have been given names that assume inferiority, assume ethnicity or are created to be vile. “Each time somebody else names you or names me, then it shifts the self-image of the object being named.” When a person gives others a name, it brands them in a certain way.
“If we are going to have a conversation about diversity and inclusivity, then we must have a conversation of what it means to be honest in America,” Hodge said. Hodge added that America must be honest with one another and seek the truth. Not all Americans are interested in the truth because the truth can be scarring.
“We need to start by identifying where the harm is, and then call it out.” Hodge said that, as educators, fixing the problem of racism is to acknowledge the problem. Hodge appeals to the intellectual community to avoid dishonesty. “Part of the conversation is an honest look at the history, so much is being left out of the conversation.”
Hodge is the associate director of education for the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Healthcare at Tuskegee University. He is also a researcher, author and editor.
Hodge’s presentation is available on the Northern Plains Ethics Institute Facebook page and website.