When Ugly Racism Meets Quiet Dignity, the Responsibility to Shine a Light Belongs to All of Us
Yesterday, I marched with thousands of others in the SF Women’s March, where we raised our voices for social justice and showed the world a wall of resistance against the oppressive authoritarianism that has gotten a foot-hold in this country. We showed resilience in our fight for human rights right here at home. And yet, in a Kentucky community the day before, racist taunts and bigotry were on full display. While many have been posting pictures of the perpetrators, who are children (albeit older children), we must acknowledge that the root of the problem is much broader and deeper, the wounds they inflict more painful and festering. We all must shoulder the responsibility to fix this. Towards that end, I wrote a letter to the principal of the school. His name is Robert Rowe and here’s his address if you’d like to do the same: firstname.lastname@example.org . Following is my letter.
Dear Mr. Rowe,
I am sure your phones have been flooded with reactions and responses to the incident this weekend when some of your students so horribly treated protesters. I’m sure you are feeling the heat of being under such scrutiny — and you should be. You have somehow built a culture of privilege and whiteness, of intolerance and hubris, of unbelievable racism and I believe you and your board should be held accountable.
Your bio says that you have your masters in counseling. Time to do some serious self-reflection and then use that education to grow your community into a kinder one. Simply holding those boys responsible, in whatever capacity you deem appropriate, without turning your critical eye toward the systemic problems will only allow this kind of abhorrent behavior to happen again. Racism grows when left unchecked. The buck stops with the adults in charge. The buck stops with you.
I have been an educator for over 20 years. I’ve raised two strong and independent women. I was myself raised by a single dad. I have seen kids turn their lives around after making terrible choices. Education and restitution are critical; redemption and forgiveness are possible; social justice and stronger communities are worth the effort.
This event is so reminiscent of the lunch counters of the sixties and I am deeply saddened that we have allowed this kind of behavior to somehow thrive. I can point to all kinds of reasons, but again, I will remind you, the buck stops at your desk. DO SOMETHING.
Train your staff; build more inclusive curriculum; seriously widen the diversity of your student AND teacher population. Hold parent education nights. Perhaps you should investigate sending staff to a national SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) training. Whatever you do, don’t just punish the children without creating systemic change because racism and intolerance are a disease, like cancer; it must be fought, with everything we’ve got.
DO THE RIGHT THING.