It’s time white students be allowed “whites only” graduation ceremonies and if refused, they sue the fuck out of the school for discrimination and segregation.
Two days earlier, another end-of-year ceremony had taken place, just a short walk away on a field outside the law school library. It was Harvard’s first commencement for black graduate students, and many of the speakers talked about a different, more personal kind of struggle, the struggle to be black at Harvard.
“We have endured the constant questioning of our legitimacy and our capacity, and yet here we are,” Duwain Pinder, a master’s degree candidate in business and public policy, told the cheering crowd of several hundred people in a keynote speech.
From events once cobbled together on shoestring budgets and hidden in back rooms, alternative commencements like the one held at Harvard have become more mainstream, more openly embraced by universities and more common than ever before.
This spring, tiny Emory and Henry College in Virginia held its first “Inclusion and Diversity Year-End Ceremonies.” The University of Delaware joined a growing list of colleges with “Lavender” graduations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. At Columbia, students who were the first in their families to graduate from college attended the inaugural “First-Generation Graduation,” with inspirational speeches, a procession and the awarding of torch pins.
Some of the ceremonies have also taken on a sharper edge, with speakers adding an activist overlay to the more traditional sentiments about proud families and bright futures.
After Columbia’s ceremony, Lizzette Delgadillo said she spoke about the pain of “impostor syndrome — feeling alone when it feels like everybody else on campus just knows what to do and you don’t,” and of how important it was to have the support of other first-generation students.