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Marquis Bey '14 Reflects on George Yancy's LVC Presentation: "Exploring Race in Predominantly White Classrooms"
03.04.14 |
Dr. George Yancy, philosopher of race and professor at Duquesne University, has left a tremendous impression on my intellectual persona. My initial encounter with him—walking from Miller Chapel’s Sustained Interfaith Dialogue on religious reactions to death and seeing Dr. Yancy and our very own Dr. Jeff Robbins walking across Sheridan Ave.—was characterized by his profound interest in the scholarship of young people. He asked me, “What are you studying?” and after telling him that I was a triple major in philosophy, American studies, and English bound for graduate school to obtain my Ph.D. in African American literature, he immediately said, “Wow, we need to talk more.”

The symposium class on Race and Religion (in which I am enrolled) had the honor of having lunch with Dr. Yancy, but knowing that I’d have my own opportunity to sit and chat with him afterward, I saved my questions. After the lunch I sat and conversed with Dr. Yancy for over two hours about a multitude of things: our common hometown of Philadelphia, being black philosophers, the incredible African American author James Baldwin, racism and the lack of black professors on campus, Judith Butler, grad school, and other things regarding race and academia. To connect with someone as prolific a writer as Dr. Yancy, and to have that person be another black man was impactful for me. I will forever cherish that intimate time I got to spend with him.

Dr. Yancy’s lecture at Zimmerman Recital Hall was electric (and not just because Dr. Yancy gave me a personal shout-out before he began his lecture). His unapologetic stance regarding racism and the ways in which the black body is truncated and “invented in the white imaginary” gave me chills. A multiracial female friend of mine remarked after his lecture, “I now see why you all love philosophy so much.” Because I, too, will become a professor and seek to insert my discourse on blackness into the discourse of our society, and also because of the deep connection I shared with Dr. Yancy, I saw myself up at that podium. I, too, imagined myself educating a sea of engaged faces about the always already known black body by the white gaze, the horrid story of Mary Turner (if you don’t know, look it up), and white-constituted myth of the black man as phallus. Dr. Yancy shook the purportedly innocuous, lovey-dovey, pristine image of LVC’s campus. And I thank him for that.

After my experience with Dr. Yancy, he encouraged me to email him and to both send him some of the texts I mentioned to him in our conversations as well as let him know where I go to grad school. I truly feel that February 25, 2014, was the beginning of a long-term relationship with one of the foremost philosophers and scholars of race in the world—and he’s a black man. I am convinced that no one in Zimmerman Recital Hall that afternoon left unchanged. Dr. Yancy was an astounding and phenomenal orator and his words left indelible imprints on the psyches of all, white and black. I cannot say this for certain, but perhaps the biggest impact he made was on me: I now see the power, the importance, the “gift” (as Dr. Yancy would call it) of black intellectuals. And I am now, more than ever, ready to become one. Thank you, Dr. Yancy.

Marquis Bey is a senior English, philosophy, and American studies major from Sharon Hill.

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