On Racial Disparity and an Unwillingness to Look Racism in the Eye.

In reviewing this tragic incident at Chaska high school this morning, I couldn’t help but feel some direct takeaways from the thread that follows this article. Clearly there is commentary that speaks to many sides of the issue, but the glaring reality for me is the ease we have with using blame and judgment to help us feel better about a situation that causes a certain anxiety in our lives.

With social media we are christened with an arm-chair response mentality, that we have seen can be as equally damning as the central idea of a topic. In this case a direct assessment of racial disparity in a public high school.

In the same article that speaks to the victims of the incident being asked to walk into a room and receive forced apologies from the students that created the mess, there is also reporting that suggests the administration sat on their hands about the incident at a timely Equity conference with parents and members of the community.

See this is the part I have a real hard time with. We cannot continue to hide ourselves behind the idea of racism when the reality of its impact occurs every day in our lives. We cannot simply hope incidents like this will go away without being dealt with directly. We cannot miss opportunities to open doors to this challenge of understanding how such moments interfere with our students of color and their desire to engage themselves in a community that openly ostracizes them, only to have the instigators receive perhaps public slaps on the hand for doing something they thought was ‘funny’ and harmless.

We cannot pretend that there is no harm that occurs beyond the incident of blatant racism itself. There is a great deal of damage that occurs when something of this level happens in any community. The traumatic nature of not being liked, or respected or appreciated for who we are cannot be measured in the eyes of a staged public apology. There has to be more.

Our students need to feel like they are being heard, their issues matter, they take the front seat and receive time and attention rather than a quiet dismissal to prevent a public outcry.

In reading the threads on Facebook that follow this article, I came across a number of personal assessments of the environment – “Oh (community) will never learn” or “same old ‘trash-**’ summarily beating the issue into the ground in such a manner to put it away, blow it off, call it unimportant, and try to put a ‘funny’ light on the issue. In fact, one thread noted, ‘this happened a week ago’ in a manner to suggest we move on. Really?

It is a sad reality that our students could continue to have such behaviors be condoned by society because of an internalized fear to have the difficult discussions. We cannot allow these moments to drift away because we are almost at the end of the school year. We cannot continue to rely upon our political horizon as the reason for such attitude and disparity in our communities across the country.

We must have the conversations and listen rather than simply join the outcry of ‘oh this is bad, but I have no commitment to helping change.’

We need to try to openly become a part of the change and move forward rather than continue to drift aimlessly backward.

Advertisements

On The Issue of Talent and Race

difference


Recently, I shared a news article that highlighted the posting oftwo of our newest appointed City Councilors. The pitch of the article was to suggest we are breaking barriers by electing our first person of color to a political seat in the city’s government.

Ironically and thankfully there was little push back to my share and far more support, though I do have to bring attention to the commentary that did evolve. In order to get there I have to tell a story.

When I was twelve my family traveled to the East Coast, where we stayed with my cousins. God love my cousins but I really didn’t know them and I certainly wasn’t aware of their cultural views. One night my cousin of same age and I took a walk about the corner store where we encountered some black kids hanging out, just being teenagers. I asked my cousin if he knew them and he said no and in doing so dropped the ‘n’ word, that being the first time I had heard it in direct context as it impacted my life. I felt immediately nervous and couldn’t get past it the remainder of the night. I clearly knew my cousin’s views as we returned from the store and I felt fear for the first time in my life.

The next day, our family toured Harlem. I turned to my mom in the back seat and said, as a naive 12 year old, ‘those were the kids I saw last night.’ She told me of course they could not have been, and I said to her, ‘yes, mom, the same black kids on the corner.’

My mother then turned to me and said, ‘Listen to me, you didn’t see those kids last night and you certainly didn’t see those ‘black kids’ on the corner, you saw kids last night, and they were different kids from a different neighborhood.’ The point she was making of course is that I saw kids, playing on the corner, just people, the significance of color in my mom’s mind and her lesson to me was that it didn’t hold any bearing. She was telling me they are human beings just like anyone else in our world.

So why do I struggle today with the reality that yes, the skill set they bring to their position ought to be precedent?

I raise this issue because when my mother told me that story, it was 1972 and we were in the midst of racial turmoil. The Civil Rights Act was meant to begin to create an alliance between people of all walks of life. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. did say, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So yes I agree 100 %.

The issue I cannot agree with is that nearly 50 years later, we are still fighting to acknowledge that people need to be judged by the content of their character. It seems we still live in a society that will not allow that mindset to grow.

We must continue to grow. Congratulations to our two newest members of the City Council – May your contributions be filled with promise and fortune to continue to move this beautiful community in the right direction.

Just Taking a Walk in the Neighbrohood

I was listening to a some Tom Waits the other day,

puts me in a certain frame of mind,

if you know, you know what I mean,

you know what I want to say,

so I just listen to the blues and try to find my way.

 

I was thinking just the other day, about a neighbor,

someone I know, they know me,

we all seem to know each other,

especially when we do have that chance,

the rare opportunity to say hello, a courtesy.

 

See it is not as much about the neighbor as it is,

each other, all of us, walking around

today, tomorrow, any other day,

it’s about the wonder of our lives,

whose do we touch, and will they every touch ours.

 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, still listening to the blues,

Tom Waits kind of sets the tone,

for your day, for some of you the week,

like sitting in an old rusty bar,

and he steps out of the blind with a guitar.

 

We all do walk the same neighborhood, together,

oh we carry our crosses, for some it is

that famous albatross from an old piece of

literature,

I believe it was Coleridge, one of the dead guys.

 

Point is the music continues, the riffs, the melodies,

the lyrics that seem to so mellow, haunt our lives,

so we can all believe in it together,

we do love to feel, to believe, to wonder, to wish,

perhaps walk the same paths we all would wish to choose.

Father, Son, Child

king

I have a father,

a son,

as did he,

a man,

like anyone,

a heartbeat,

a desire,

a following he didn’t ever imagine,

yet today,

we celebrate him,

this man,

this iconic symbol of peace,

whom certainly lived the same life,

we have all,

being human,

it is difficult not to imagine,

hardship of any kind,

would cross his threshold,

maybe not like mine, not like yours,

theirs or anyone who has ever experienced,

anything, anywhere.

Yet I have a son,

and a father,

as did he,

we on the other hand enjoy the bounty of our lives,

whereas he,

well his son,

and his father too,

could only recall,

can only recall,

might realize,

long before you and me,

that his calling,

the father and his son,

was a man,

who believed,

and wanted only what his heart could prevail,

he was no Messiah,

as he would be the first to suggest,

not Gotama, not Buddha, Christ, Allah,

none of these,

simply a man,

yet that he was,

vulnerable and easy,

he had some plan,

for you, and me, and them, and everyone,

he did believe in a dream,

he did,

imagine.

While Wandering Many Years

I remember,

when as a child,

I noticed for the first time,

beauty,

the sort that remained with me,

for the rest of my life.

 

Oh it came in a smile,

a long and enduring hug,

a remark

a passerby whom might notice,

or help or assist, or wonder,

rather than showing

some practiced

ignorance.

 

For many years,

I’ve wandered through doors,

often wide open, without a need,

for a knock, or a password, or a latch key,

all evidence of the freedoms

I did feel as a child,

a young teenager,

an aspiring and hopeful

adult.

 

Along the way, I discovered,

race.

 

I remember the first time, well perhaps

there were many before,

a friend of mine,

in a fit of laughter, his own,

helped to shield my embarrassment,

we were talking iconic,

a Hollywood star,

I named the wrong person,

and he chuckled and said with clarity,

‘no the other black guy.’

 

See, I’ve now wandered for years,

found many stories,

heard a lot of different controversy,

created

of course a few of my own,

and in all that time,

I look around the room tonight,

and that oyster,

that metaphor,

that penchant for society to suggest

we all own ourselves …

that responsibility,

does let me breathe I suppose.

 

Yet I want a little bit more,

so in the years ahead,

perhaps a vocal sojourn

is merited,

to show the beauty and grace,

inherent in a wonder,

in the human condition,

in the freedom,

in some spiritual reckoning,

suggests,

we do, forever,

wander together.

I Have A Broken Heart

I watched my world unravel tonight,

I believe in love,

I understand pain and indifference,

though cannot recognize ignorance.

 

This night I listened to voices

familiar and strong

speak with certain agonizing

reactions to simple insecurities.

 

How soon do we lose ourselves,

when hiding inside a square box

incapable of having corners,

unaware of angles of reason.

 

When one person believes in rage,

the others follow suit,

When once a person tears,

the others make choices

for themselves.

 

We wonder sometimes,

if the tables were turned,

were they turned on me,

or did I make it all up.

 

I walked around,

looking for a variable,

searching for a purity of reason,

I couldn’t find an alternative.

 

Walking alone in confusion,

I’m supposed to laugh but I cannot,

I’m trying to hide but I cannot,

I listen, but not to hate justify a desire

for themselves.

 

I realized tonight,

its in my world,

everything we believe is not,

is actually real and certainly designed

for themselves.

 

For themselves,

for their own needs,

for the sake of no one else,

only themselves.

 

Only themselves.

Be A Racist, It’s Ok, It’s 2017

I walked into a nightmare today,

names were dropped, words were tossed,

I couldn’t get past an,

an, an, an,

omission of a hopeful anomaly,

that turned awful, horrific, debatably

ludicrous,

seemed we were all so frivolous,

funny, fanatics.

Seemed we were all lost in the comfort of our

WHITE PRIVILEGE!

White privilege regarded itself,

and no one else really mattered.

All the doors were closed,

we all looked at each other,

nobody cared, nobody cared,

nobody,

anyone within a couple of feet with

the ability to see and hear might have thought,

wait a second,

I thought it was the 21st century,

the 21st century – 2017.

Years beyond the days when civil rights

meant understanding there was a need to change,

a need to understand,

a time to respond to the changing mind,

and realize, realize,

real eyes would be watching now,

more cognizant, more genuine …

Have you noticed all the bi-racial advertising,

I mean there’s nothing wrong with it,

just advertising meeting a market,

nothing wrong with it,

the windows are all closed.

Nobody knows,

‘the trouble I’ve seen’,

the long and winding road …

Old man river,

and its four decades later,

we’re still safe though,

nobody heard the word said out loud,

except,

oh wait,

except, except, except,

accept responsibility,

we all heard it and we need all to

open the doors and try to squeeze through,

because we have suddenly narrowed

nearly a half century of effort.

But its ok,

the doors all remain closed.

Simple, right?