*Regularly scheduled posting on this blog (i.e. posts about my 30-day road trip) has been delayed in order to bring you this important update from my life in NYC*
I don’t want to say this wrong. It seems so important. Not that it’s important that I talk about it. But that we all talk about it. About all of it. And maybe it’s okay to say some things wrong as long as we’re willing to be corrected and willing to learn.
Last night, I attended a film screening of Spike Lee’s new documentary “2 Fists Up” followed by a Q & A session with Spike Lee.
While I certainly wish more white folks gave a shit and attended events like this film screening, it felt kind of good for me to be in the minority since I have spent my whole life in “white spaces.” Growing up, I never really got to hear black voices and perspectives until I started to seek out opportunities to educate myself.
I grew up in a small town in Ohio where only one black kid went to my high school. It’s not that we didn’t talk about race or know about MLK, but most of the people around me thought racism was a thing of the past. The insinuation was that racism doesn’t exist anymore and black people just use racism as an excuse for their own failings. In fact, racism was such a “joke” (and oh so very real) that teenagers threw parties and literally referred to them as “KKK rallies.” But racism isn’t real.
During the Q&A with Spike Lee, he talked about school segregation and how even people who believe that integration is necessary, still, oftentimes think of it as an educational deficit to only black children. Lee reminded us that integration is for the benefit of ALL children. He left it at that, but if you’re confounded by this statement, this was my take-away: Diversity, in race and in beliefs and in socio-economic status, allows us all to learn from each other. It is good for community. It is good for empathy. And if you don’t care about any of that, it’s also good for the economy and the human race altogether. You know the rhetoric about abortion and how we might be aborting the person who could cure cancer or discover a way for people to live on Mars? Well, for centuries, we’ve been suppressing an entire race of people – who already exist outside of the womb – who could do those things, too.
While watching 2 Fists Up, I was amazed that I had hardly even heard of this story about a heroically successful protest against racism and the white administration that stood for it. The #concernedstudent1950 movement was started by black women on the University of Missouri campus after numerous acts of blatant racism by students on campus.
Unfortunately, no one cared about their movement – people, including the university’s president, even mocked and laughed at them – until the football team stood in solidarity and decided they wouldn’t play their next game. Patriarchy and capitalism at their best. But these women will go down in history – at least, they fucking better.
Watch the film. Learn their names. Teach your kids and/or the students in your classes if you are a teacher. Future generations will look back on this time and ask their parents: “Did you stand up for what is right? Were you a part of the movement? Or did you allow this injustice to go on?”
Hmmmm….I can see you never had me as your history teacher. I had forgotten that I didn’t teach you history in 8th grade. I covered a lot of this in my history class. Probably because I did take black studies classes at OSU and taught in the inner city before and just after ‘forced busing’ (which btw most of the black parents were not happy about because that put distance between them and their activities – even with the good transportation system that existed in that city – it was an extra expense and travel at night times to see activities was hard – most choose not to go so PTA’s and other parental involvement at the school suffered). Sorry about the run-on. =P
I definitely learned about racism and integration but that is a far cry from hearing black voices (in my classrooms and in my neighborhood) and talking about the reality of racism in the present day. As far as the mandated integration – of course no one liked the bussing. I don’t know what the answer is for making it happen- but integration works. I know I’ve recommended this podcast before but it really delves into these issues and talks about the success of integration, even if no one was particulary happy about how it was done. It would be so much greater if our actual neighborhoods were diverse and then no one would have to leave their community to talk to people who are different from themselves. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with