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Boise State Student: “We Need Black People To Matter In Order For All Lives To Matter”

Idaho Statesman
Dele Ogunrinola, center, of Boise, joins thousands for a vigil remembering the most recent death of a black man while in police custody.

Dele Ogunrinola is a Boise State University student studying biochemistry and physics. He’s been involved in community organizing and activism since he was in high school, and recently participated at the Boise vigil in honor of George Floyd and other Black people who have been killed by police. Idaho Matters host Gemma Gaudette talks with him about his experience being Black in Boise and in America. 

Ogunrinola has written an op-ed about the Black Lives Matter movement that he says is soon to be published in the Idaho Statesman. 


Read the full transcript here:

GEMMA GAUDETTE: You're listening to Idaho Matters. I'm Gemma Gaudette. Dele Ogunrinola is a Boise State student studying biochemistry and physics. He's been involved in community organizing and activism since he was in high school. And in fact, he recently wrote an op-ed for the Idaho Statesman about his experience being Black in Boise and in America. And it should be published soon. Dele is joining Idaho Matters live today to talk more about this. Welcome so much to the show.

DELE OGUNRINOLA: Hi there. Good to see you. Thank you for having me. How are you doing?

GAUDETTE: I am good. So you wrote a beautiful opinion piece and it should be published in the Idaho Statesman here shortly. Can I ask what your inspiration was for for the the op-ed? I mean, why that format or medium, frankly?

OGUNRINOLA: Yeah. So I mean, the reason why was I wrote the piece is because I was reached out to by one of the publishers at the Idaho Statesman. And so at the Idaho Statesman, he said, you know, "hey, like we see all the work that's been happening." I think it was after the vigil that happened last Tuesday, he reached out to me and he said, "hey, seems like you are one of the folks who kind of been, you know, interested in organizing around." So he asked me to write the piece. And so I wrote it over the weekend. And it should be-- He and I have been talking about, you know, editing it and stuff. But that was my major inspiration and just getting the people of Boise to understand and see the issues from a perspective that they normally wouldn't understand.

GAUDETTE: So, in fact, I mean, in the op-ed and I'm going to quote you here, you write, "Living as a Black male immigrant in the cultural and ethnic capital that is Boise, Idaho, I found myself explaining the very oppression I face regularly." Have you found this to be especially true recently? I mean, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining, I mean, some hopefully real momentum in our state?

OGUNRINOLA: Oh, man. It's definitely the truest thing that I could personally put in that article, is that like time and time again, me and people who look like me, Black Lives Matter advocates, Black people in general, are constantly having to explain why Black lives matter. And that kind of working is exhausting, frankly, because if you ask a Black person, "explain racism to me," like it's not necessarily their job to explain to you why you should think that this is a good thing, why you should understand. Because there's resources out there. There's all sorts of information in the world. And it's not that difficult to really learn instead of like going to someone, especially in a time of trauma like this and be like, "I don't get this. Please explain this to me." So that's what I was going with that.

GAUDETTE: Mm hmm. And you go on to say, I mean, as you said, this can be exhausting to have to explain this oppression to white people. And you go a little farther saying, because we frankly, as white people, have the privilege of deciding when we want to opt into this conversation and when we want to opt out of it. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because I think, you know, that is hopefully, eye-opening for white people in a way, right? That is part of the privilege right there.

OGUNRINOLA: Yeah. And like the reason why I concluded the article with that statement is because I thought that it's a really powerful call to action. And white folks, specifically white folks in Idaho, seem to think that racism is less proximal than it actually is. Right. Like, they seem to think that Boise is an area that is devoid of racism because we don't see, you know, horrible, tragic police shootings. And that's just not the case. And so by saying that it's a privilege for white folks to opt into the conversation now when we needed them, you know, two, three, four years ago, it's a way for them to unpack, like, wow. The ability for me to be like, "oh, I suddenly care about this because it's all over the news. It's all over the media. It's all over the internet. And I should, like, be with the trendy movement!" It's a privilege, right? Because this is this is the life that Black and brown people have to live day in and day out. And this conversation has been going on for decades. It's been going on for hundreds of years. And so the ability for white folks to choose when and where they decide to enter the conversation, which also means that they can choose to leave the conversation. And I can tell you that there's a lot of white folks out there who have left the conversation, who are really only with it because it's the trendy thing to do. And I'm talking to those people specifically, is that this is not a conversation that you should be opting into or opting out of, based off of your comfort of your privilege, because we need real allyship in order to actually get the work done.

GAUDETTE: You know, it's interesting. I had a moment where I'm having to have some conversations with with family members, right. When this idea of -- you put out there on social media: "Black Lives Matter." And people come back with "I believe all lives matter." And I heard something, someone goes: "it's Black Lives Matter, too." Right. I mean, so it's Black lives matter, too. It's not just Black Lives Matter. That has never been the standpoint of this movement. But having to have -- choosing -- I chose to opt into those conversations and to have these difficult conversations with family members. And I remember at this one point being like, "I am exhausted by this and by them!" And I had to check myself because I'm like, "I'm exhausted?! I don't get the right to be exhausted right now!" And really, is that part of what you're trying to almost like wake white people up to, is like we don't we don't get that that privilege of, frankly, being being exhausted by this.

OGUNRINOLA: Yeah. And honestly, I'm really glad that you provided that anecdote, because I think there's a lot of people -- I think Black Lives Matter gets a really bad rap in that it's just a bunch of really angry Black people who were like mad at white America and who, you know, don't want white people, and are done with the movement. And that's that's just that could not be further from the truth. And so it's important for white folks to understand that by holding white folks accountable to, you know, the privileges that they have, hopefully we can get them to be able to do the work in educating each other and educating themselves, because at the end of the day, white people educating other white people is really how we're going to get this message, you know, broadcasted, how we're going to get people to really understand where we're going and where we're at. Furthermore, let's talk about all lives matter. The really unfortunate thing about the all lives matter response is that it only ever comes after somebody says Black Lives Matter. Right. And that's the frustrating thing for African-Americans. That's the frustrating thing for Black people specifically is because all lives matter is not a movement. They do not have a platform. They have no national stage. They haven't helped people. There's no greater message of -- it doesn't exist. It's not a thing. Black Lives Matter is a movement with people, resources, presidents, role models. There's a whole institution behind Black Lives Matter. And all lives matter is just a response. It's just a way to silence people when they say the Black lives matter. So when you're talking to people who don't understand or may not necessarily be with the movement yet, it's really important for them to understand that all lives matter is not a response to Black Lives Matter, because Black Lives Matter is only confirming why all lives matter. We need Black people to matter in order for all lives to matter right now. Does that make sense?

GAUDETTE: Oh, 100 percent. It makes sense. I wish I had more time with you. Would love to find another time to have you on our program, Dele. I think it's incredibly important to keep up these conversations. So let's find another time to go more in-depth. Would appreciate that time with you.


GAUDETTE: Absolutely. Thank you so much. We're looking forward to seeing your op-ed in the Idaho Statesman. We've had the privilege to talk with Dele Ogunrinola. He is a Boise State student whose recent op-ed is set to be published by the Idaho Statesman. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

OGUNRINOLA: Thank you. No problem. Y'all have a good day.

GAUDETTE: You too. And thank you all for listening today. It's Thursday. I hope you find some joy in your day. I'm Gemma Gaudette. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters

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Molly Wampler is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Originally from Berkeley, California, she just graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state. There, Molly worked for her university's newspaper but is stoked to try her hand at and learn all there is to learn about radio journalism.