‘BlackOut’ Student Protesters Demand End to ‘Oppressive’ Standardized Testing

Brian Ledtke, Campus Reform, March 14, 2016

Protesters interrupted the University of Wisconsin system’s Board of Regents meeting for a third time last week, demanding the end of “blatantly oppressive” standardized testing.

The group of about 40 students, who call themselves “BlackOut,” stood up an hour into the meeting and began loudly chanting, “Ashé,” a Nigerian word referring to the creative power of an artist to make something happen, with others responding, “Power!”

Following the chants, Misha Johnson, a student at UW-Madison, began by telling the Board about her experience of racial discrimination against Native Americans. As she became emotional, the group supported her by chanting, “Ashé! Power,” and snapped their fingers.

After composing herself, Johnson continued by claiming that several students interrupted a healing circle by mocking the participants with, “fake war whoops and calls at us . . . as if that was my real culture . . . How do you expect marginalized students to feel welcome here when things like that happen?”

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The next student recited BlackOut’s list of demands, which include having the president admit the failure of the school’s diversity, creating new mandatory racial awareness and inclusion curriculum and trainings, hiring more colored mental health professionals, and the creation of a diversity task force.

During the protest, BlackOut added a new demand calling for the removal of standardized testing.

“There has been so much research against it. It’s almost blatantly oppressive to ignore the fact that you are only hindering low-income and minority students from attending the university,” Kenneth Cole, a student at UW-Madison and co-leader of BlackOut, told The Daily Cardinal.

The group concluded by asking the Board, “What are you going to do about it? You can’t keep ignoring us.”

A Board member responded by saying, “I want to thank you for your information for us, we are truly . . .”

The students immediately interrupted her by again loudly chanting, “Ashé! Power,” and then stormed out of the meeting while several people applauded.

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