June 16, 2020
When I finally got around to reading the Sunday edition of my local paper, I came across an article taken from the USA Today about how to take action against racism in this time of staying at home. The essence was: donate and support activist groups, provide resources to aid protesters, and vote. The ideas and organizations the article provided allowed someone to make an impact from home. The suggestion which really sparked my interest concerned becoming actively anti-racist. This included ideas like urging schools to include diversity in curriculum, bringing diverse voices to schools, reading about race, and others.
The reason this resonated with me was from my experience during the early 70’s at my high school. Following the unrest of the late 60s, the school board instituted social consciousness events during the year. I do not recall the name of the speaker, but her message has stayed with me. We had an assembly for everyone followed by an open discussion in another large setting. During the assembly she challenged the audience by making one claim after another concerning the role of African Americans in the formation of our country. In the discussion time she fielded questions. Even as a Sophomore I was not shy about speaking up. I asked if the real purpose of what she said was to challenge us to research the past written from a different perspective. Apparently, I got it because she asked if she could give me a hug. I went forward and we did just that.
The next day I was surprised by the openly racial slurs and comments I received. I lived in a medium sized college town with an army base nearby in a Northern state. Although there were not a lot of African American students, they did comprise 10-15% of the school. My brother has told me of a similar feel when he learned of the racism against Hispanics at his school in another small town where we lived in the same state. I realized this was not a Mason-Dixon Line problem, even in “Bleeding Kansas.”
THOUGHTS: Melissa and I completed one of our “bucket list” events several years ago when we attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We sat in the grandstands for three of the big parades on Sunday and Monday and watched the Tuesday parades from the side (already sold out). We planed the trip to spend the Wednesday and Thursday after touring “Nola” and the surrounding countryside. I was amazed how fast the crowds left after Tuesday. Two museums stood out, the Presbytere, with an exhibit on Katrina and the Cabildo, with an exhibit on the slave trade. Both showed in graphic detail the plight of the marginalized. We both left wondering how it was allowed to happen. I appreciate the challenge I was given by an unknown woman 45 years ago. I realized it is not enough to be anti-racist, we need to be active. If you venture out, stay safe.