Sunday, December 18, 2011

lessons on race

Theater today. Just me and Myles. Taking advantage of our "educator/student" discount to watch the DCPA's version of Tom Sawyer. I invited a few of my students to join us and do the same. We were waiting for their arrival in the lobby.

Me: "Help me watch out for my students."
Myles: "What do they look like?"
Me: "Well, you met them the day you came to school with me. Devin is a tall, thin black boy, remember, he gave you a high five? And Jahne is a tall, black girl with big, beautiful hair."
Myles (after scanning the crowd a few times): "Mom, there are no black people here at all. Wait. Except for that security guard."
Me: "Hmmmm. You may be right."
Myles: "Mom, why are there no black people here?"
Me: "I'm not sure."
Myles: "Maybe some black people don't like to follow Martin Luther King Jr's rule."
Me: "What do you mean by his 'rule'?"
Myles: "The thing he taught to the world... you know! That black people can be with white people, that it doesn't have to be black with black and white with white."

My students didn't show up. If they had, Myles would have been correct. They would have been the only black people in our theater. It was all white people--mostly white moms and dads and grandparents with their white kids.

I cannot answer him. I cannot tell him why black people in Denver today didn't show; why they don't like the theater. Especially why they don't like Mark Twain, an advocate for their equality. But one thing I did try to tell him was this:

Me: "Let's be careful with the word 'they' because that implies that there's a 'they' that is all the same. And. As we know every white person we know is entirely different. And every black or brown person we know is also very different from anyone else."

But. It does hit close to home with my current battle. Why is it that 99% of the students in the advanced track at my school are white, and 90% of all the students in the low track (the one in which I am currently teaching) are black or brown (a term used by the school to identify minorities--mostly blacks and hispanics)?

I don't know. I don't know much. But I do know that we have a serious racial disparity and inequality in our country. And it weighs on me. It smacks of a deep problem. One that is not being talked about at a national or local level. One that is being quietly ignored and blamed on a variety of factors. One that I have no idea how to begin to solve. But I'd like to try. And I'll likely be exploring this further.

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