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Dean David Woodyard's chapel lecture Monday on "A Whitewash of Black Power" contained perhaps the most objective and coherent explanation of the concept of black power that a white man could be expected to be able to make. The problems involved with the speech, however, were basic - someone who hasn't felt or experienced something will necessarily have difficulties relating that feeling to an audience. Woodyard, Dean of Chapel at Denison University, realized the problem, and likened his telling a white audience what black power means to him to Barry Goldwater defending Wayne Morse's views to Lyndon Johnson.
Aside from these important limitations on his subject matter, Woodyard's address must be judged as excellent, well-delivered, and easily the most captivating so far this quarter. The speech's base was found in Woodyard's familiarity with the writings and speeches of Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King and Floyd McKissick.
Dean Woodyard pointed out that the decline of popularity of the civil rights movement on college campuses is signalling the death throes of the movement as we know it. Civil rights has gone through a change of emphasis and philosophy. Black power, according to the chapel speaker, "signifies the end of the days of polite requests" - an aggressiveness by the Negro toward the changing of the present day social structure has come, Black power, the new emphasis in civil rights, means the Negro setting himself up as a political, social and economic force and using power to liberate himself, recognizing not that "might makes right," but that "might protects rights."
The basic problem to be solved is not discrimination; it is what Stokely Carmichael calls "institutionalized racism": the maceration of the human dignity of the Negro, the white man attempting to make the Negro feel he should be ashamed to be black. As Dean Woodyard so correctly states, "When you tell a person a lie about himself enough he'll finally believe it to be true."
Black power means the Negro denial of an identity assigned to him by the white man. It means the Negro attempting through power to change the circumstances under which he has been forced to live. The use of black power may not change the white man's values, hut it can restrain his behavior. The Negro will no longer have to beg for his rights; he will negotiate for them with strength.
Woodyard's interpretation of black power includes neither racism nor black nationalism. It is simply the recognition of a group of human beings who have come of age, who are attempting to gain a sense of pride in themselves that the white man has withheld from them. The term black power may scare us, but only because it says more about white guilt than political oppression by Negroes.
From the white liberal who contributed much to the old style civil rights movement, the Negro no longer wants nor needs patronizing advice on how to go about things slowly so as not to offend too many people. The best the liberal can do is to understand the black power movement for what it really is and what it hopes to accomplish, and, as Dean David Woodyard says, he can hope and work for the day, however distant, when the Negro and the white man can lock arms and sing, "We have overcome."