The Pervasiveness of Racism
Dear Central Academy students and families,
When I was a child I remember being in the car with my mother and pointing to a factory smokestack pumping out filth in my neighborhood and condemning those factory owners. My mother let me rant for a while. But then, in her incisive way, she cut me off just as I was getting going. “It’s really hard to listen to you right now,” she said. “You are personally responsible for a tiny 10′ x 12′ piece of this earth–your bedroom. And it is a disaster. How can I listen to your criticism of the factory owner when you haven’t taken care of your own mess? To be sure, the factory is a problem,” she added. “But if you really care about this issue, you better start demonstrating it with the things you can control.”
My mother’s admonishment has been ringing in my ears as the pervasiveness of racism has been made plain once again. I am still reeling from yet another killing of a Black person in police custody I am wrestling with so many emotions in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder that triggered the current outcry that continues to resonate around the world. As a white woman and an American I have read and listened intensely to the discussions we’re having as a nation and a community.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used a simile in an LA Times article last week that I cannot get out of my mind. He wrote, “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.”
Friends, you may be confused or hurting or angry or uncertain or just plain exhausted from choking on the dust of racism everywhere in our society. From this pain we can find justice if we but have the courage to examine and clean up our own small slice of America.
Yesterday I met with Academy teachers online to discuss racism in our school. I didn’t organize it, the teachers did. Most of the staff voluntarily showed up to have a difficult conversation. As a result many of us have committed to Eddie Moore’s 21-day challenge to do one action for each of the next 21 days, to further our understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. If you’d like to take the challenge, just click on the link to get started. Dr. Moore is the founder of the Privilege Institute and has been conducting the White Privilege Conference for more than 20 years, which he started right here in Iowa. Personally, I have benefited from Dr. Moore’s recommendations, books, and presentations since committing to my personal equity journey.
We cannot let this cry for justice fade from White ears as it has done so many times before. If you are a White person or raising White children and want to start or deepen your anti-racist work, this site (bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES) lists resources specifically for White children and adults to help them understand and confront racism.
Finally, starting next week DMPS will be conducting virtual town hall meetings to give our community an opportunity to speak out to create an actively anti-racist school district. There will be several opportunities to participate and sessions for both adults and students. Be watching for announcements about the meetings coming soon.
I hope you will join us and help our community address the pervasiveness of racism.
PS: The Youth Voice Forums are another great place to discuss the issues that are important to you. Get more information here.