Sunday, March 10, 2013

Talking with black high school students


Thanks to Frank Tuitt, Tracey Peters and Anthea Johnson, I spoke to black and Latino high school students, some in 9th grade, who were being welcomed at the University of Denver by the Black Student Association February 22, 2013. The event was called: Newly Freed Slaves and the Fight for American Democracy, part "A Day at DU," in conjunction with black college student mentors. You can listen here, here, here, here and here (h\t Rich Rockwell).

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I emphasized why it is important for any student, but particularly for African-American and Chicano students to remain true to what they know from experience, follow their own path in college and trust that each of us has something to say. I brought up three examples. The first is of a black disk jockey from Los Angeles who called up the Randi Rhodes show during the hunt for Christopher Dorner. He told how as a kid, he would walk home from school and a cop would hit him every day with a billy club. So he often walked with other black kids to seek protection in numbers. But then he was “part of a gang.”

Damned if you do and damned if you do…

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Second, organizing against police brutality in Five Points some years ago, I was told the following story. In many little stores, if a white person goes to the counter and pays, the clerk returns the change to the person’s hand.

If a black person pays, the clerk puts the change on the counter…

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Felicia George, a lawyer, minister and currently my teaching assistant for nonviolence, described teaching, as a black woman, a class for undergraduates. A white male student asked her persistently and obnoxiously whether she was a Ph.D. (she has three advanced degrees and is ABD). She doubted whether, if she had been a white male, she would have received this grilling.

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Black people (and indigenous people and Latinos and Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans and Jews and poor whites) have insights into America of which the “dominant” culture is unaware.

So do Palestinians about Israel (the nonviolent protestors on the West Bank, whom I stayed with, know, for instance, that Israel is a viciously enforced apartheid state - see Janna's song here).

So do factory workers about capitalists or homeless people about the police and politicians...

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It is in that context I spoke of what people might learn from Black Patriots and Loyalists and discussing Founding amnesias…See here, here and here.

It is a context, for instance, of the need to rebel against the prison-industrial complex which jails 2.3 million people, 25% of the world's prisoners in a country with 3% of the world's population, as well as for hope which can be inspired by the accomplishments in moving the mountain of bondage of individuals working steadily against the odds whom Black Patriots and Loyalists describes.

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None of us knows what contributions to making a decent world any one of us is capable of. What may become a long journey starts with each of us doing what we can.


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