Tuesday, February 01, 2005
today i'm thinking about the white male student who spoke up at the Needham High School SPEAK OUT i attended earlier this month with gooselove. the student critiqued 900 of his peers for responding positively to our anti-racist, pro-choice set. Who says racism is bad, anyway? he interrogated, chest puffed with all the sense of entitlement and unexamined privilege he could muster.
the students of color seated in the second row (less than 25 of them, i thought) booed and hissed and felt fire in their gut, accordingly. there were moments of contained confrontation (a visceral oh no [he didn't], a passionless, heady shrug) and, of course, another white student (female) jumped to the first dude's defense: I don't think he meant... etc...So you [Black] guys don't have to harass him...and such.
soon afterwards, the assembly was dismissed. when asked if they expected the discussion to continue during the rest of their classes that day, many of the kids i spoke to insisted their teachers' lectures would go on as if the SPEAK OUT had never occured.
and later, i learned
that members of the administration
removed the white male student, supposedly
"for his own protection," worried
that Black students, in particular, would
for exercising his right to free speech.
here we go again:
another population of students
of color, in the minority
at their academic institution, emotionally assaulted
daily/every time they have to pee
because the n-word is
unmistakably but anonymously
in permanent marker
on the bathroom stalls and walls.
another population of students
of color, in the minority but considered
if they dare to protest
verbal violence and physical abuse.
and still, another group of so-called adults
who ought to be intervening but are
(sadly, predictably) conducive
to their students' sense of isolation
and injury due to thier
subtle accusations, neglect,
inaction and overwhelmed, old silence.
it's 2005, people.
why do your students equate
the systematic problem of "racism"
with occasional (however absurdly frequent)
incidents of hurled derogatory epitaphs--a symptom
of a screwed-up system, after all?
why is there no public, faculty-mediated space
to have an open, on-going discussion
about oppression, and how all these tired isms
are interconnected and dependent on each other?
why are there only, like, 25 students of color
at this school? and why, if not a whole office/organization/movement
to address and change
their recurring concerns, is there
annual SPEAK OUT with
poet and woman of color
reasserting that the shit is real and wrong?
all this asked, i was impressed, nevertheless,
by the young folks of color--
and their many (potential) allies--
who articulated their suffering (a first step)
and their resistance to suffering,
and made it clear to me and others
that their solidarity was a matter of survival
and not up to negotiation.
and i want y'all to know: i know
you are not a gang.
you are not crazy.
you are not alone.
you are brave.
you are capable.
you are complicated.
and it's true, your silence will not protect you.
you are mirrors to my memory, also; the only
reason i believe in a future.
and believe me, i've been there.
so keep your head up and i will, too.
a i send loving gratitude to the educators
who DO champion their students' voices, and
promote long-term peace
by carving room for the uncomfortable,
of the present. people like you
we are overcoming.
peace power, lenelle.