Tag Archives: racism

Taking the First Step

An address to the school delivered on Martin Luther King Day.

“When you call something the ‘New Civil Rights Movement,’ you’re implying that the ‘old’ Civil Rights Movement is over. It isn’t.”Womanist Gamer Girl

Nearly 60 years ago, on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education ending legal segregation in American schools. Chief Justice Earl Warren had worked for weeks to build a consensus, enabling the decision to be unanimous despite personal and legal reservations several of the justices held in the case. One of the key holdings was that, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. . .” (http://www.uscourts.gov/)

Nearly 60 years later, exactly a week ago today, U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall settled the longest-running case relative to Brown, approving a settlement between the Little Rock district and the state and surrounding districts. The original case dates back to 1956, when a class action suit was filed seeking the desegregation of the Little Rock school system. While in one sense the settlement ends an era that should never have stretched out so long, there is little to celebrate about it.

For one thing, according to history professor John Kirk, “in a city that is roughly 47 percent white and 42 percent black, the school population is two-thirds African-American.” (Kirk, quoted by Washington) As Kirk further noted, white students are choosing private or charter schools. In addition, and following patterns that were seen in districts throughout the country as schools were progressively desegregated, there was a significant amount of white flight to the suburbs. In this way, as was noted by attorney John Walker, who represented black students in the case, “the legal system of segregation has been replaced by a defacto system.” Pulaski County Superintendent Jerry Guess said, “I have had a lot of people comment about their kids going to schools where black students are and not wanting to. And I believe that’s still, unfortunately, a truth about human nature.” (Guess, quoted in Elliott)

“A truth about human nature.” Seriously? I’m not going to deny that there are prejudiced people in the world, and of course we all notice difference. But specific attitudes toward difference are not inevitable. People are not born prejudiced; this must be learned.

And if it can be learned, then it can also be unlearned. Unlearning is a long, slow process. Research suggests that it takes nine times as long to relearn something correctly as it does to learn it correctly in the first place. But when the goal is universal respect for all people regardless of the colour of their skin, we have a moral obligation to work for that goal, to keep the faith no matter the odds. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” and “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

So, if you do encounter prejudice, take that step and confront it. Start the unlearning process. Confront prejudice with love and respect, for you will never teach love and respect if you don’t model it. But confront it nonetheless. Have faith that you are doing the right thing. Have faith the next steps will become clear when the time is right.

And have faith that you are not alone. Year after year, time and time again, my students express sadness and confusion that racism ever existed and still exists, and time and time again, they say they want to do something about it. So, when I get discouraged in my own fight, I often think of you all. Because you inspire me to stay on the staircase, even when the next step isn’t visible. Yet.

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Reflecting our Compassion

May my tweets reflect my compassion & if/when they don’t may I have enough self-awareness to reign myself back in. #Amen
Sister Outsider

These days, it seems that making a sincere, genuine, heartfelt apology is becoming something of a lost art. Far too often, the transgressor manages to include the phrase “I’m sorry” without ever accepting any personal responsibility, often including the word “if” to increase the fudge factor. Yet, an apology that reads essentially “I’m sincerely sorry if anyone was offended by my actions despite my obviously good intentions” just doesn’t cut it, especially when followed by a long explanation of those good intentions and little to no consideration whatsoever for the genuine hurt and/or anger experienced by other people as a direct consequence of those specific actions.

That was essentially the initial approach taken by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco when a firestorm of controversy erupted when it was learned that she was hosting a songwriting retreat at Nottoway Plantation Resort in Louisiana. Though it has now been taken down, at the time, the resort’s website included this stunningly tone-deaf phrase, “”Ever the astute businessman, Randolph [Nottoway] knew that in order to maintain a willing workforce, it was necessary to provide not only for his slaves’ basic needs for housing, food and medicine, but to also offer additional compensation and rewards when their work was especially productive.” (Jezebel) That Ms. DiFranco is a champion of social justice and a feminist icon with a long history of supporting LGBT rights made the gaffe even more painful for many people.

Ms. DiFranco’s first apology (foreshadowing alert!) was not particularly helpful for, despite announcing the cancellation of the retreat, her decision to then launch into a long essay on racism, slavery, and privilege that managed to reach new heights of whitesplaining such as “i know that the pain of slavery is real and runs very deep and wide. however, in this incident i think is very unfortunate what many have chosen to do with that pain.” only added fuel to the fire.

Fortunately, she showed a genuine willingness to really listen, and issued a second, more humble and sincere apology:

everyone,
it has taken me a few days but i have been thinking and feeling very intensely and i would like to say i am sincerely sorry. it is obvious to me now that you were right; all those who said we can’t in good conscience go to that place and support it or look past for one moment what it deeply represents. i needed a wake up call and you gave it to me. it was a great oversight on my part to not request a change of venue immediately from the promoter. you tried to tell me about that oversight and i wasn’t available to you. i’m sorry for that too. know that i am digging deeper.
-ani

In a similar vein, Grant Wiggins, a true giant among educators, found himself in hot water over a blog entry he wrote advocating a greater mixing of teachers and students in schools, including sharing cafeterias and bathrooms, toward the end of promoting a greater sense of understanding and unity and developing a genuine sense of student voice – by comparing current practices to apartheid. In this case, he reacted within 24 hours by issuing an honest, sincere, and heartfelt apology, where he stated in part “I intended no disrespect in any way to freedom fighters and to those who overthrew apartheid. No trivialization was intended at all. I have always been against all apartheid, and personally, as a child, spoke up about separate water fountains in Washington DC. / However, it is clear from some of the angry comments directed my way that I was insensitive or at least unthinking about using such a term to make a point. I am sorry for the anger and upset I have caused to anyone offended. My goal, indeed, was to generate thought and discussion – as always – and so for those who were properly angered I clearly failed on two counts. I apologize for my thoughtless choice of language.” (Wiggins) Then, at the request of at least one reader, he rewrote the original blog. Notice that he took responsibility for his actions, affirmed the strong principles in which he believes, acknowledged without judging the reactions he provoked, and apologized.

When making such an apology, of course, no one has the right to expect to be forgiven, though one may certainly ask and hope for forgiveness. Melissa Harris-Perry gets this, as when her show included a segment joking about Mitt Romney’s grandson Kieran and she later realized how inappropriate this was, she wrote in a series of tweets under the hashtag #MHPapology: “I am sorry. Without reservation or qualification. I apologize to the Romney family. I work by guiding principle that those who offend to not have the right to tell those they hurt that they r wrong for hurting. As black child born into large white Mormon family I feel familiarity w/Romney family pic & never meant to suggest otherwise. I apologize to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices.” (Harris-Perry, quoted in Adams). She also made an on-air apology. Mitt Romney, when asked to comment on the incident by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” responded with great class, “Look, I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself. They’ve apologized for this. You know, I think we can go on from there. (…) I think it’s a heartfelt apology. I think for that reason, we hold no ill will whatsoever.” (Romney, quoted in Darcy)

Of course, best of all is not to get yourself in that kind of situation in the first place, keeping compassion and respect always foremost in your mind. But if – when – you slip up, second best is to listen carefully no matter how painful, acknowledge what has happened, keep listening, take responsibility, and do some more listening.

Our school’s mission challenges each student, and thus each member of our community, to discover our own best selves. Sometimes, that road is pure pleasure. Sometimes, it is deeply painful. But if we truly desire authenticity, we need to follow that road wherever it takes us.

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Teaching to Love

The first voice you hear on the trailer for the Dark Girls documentary is a young woman saying, “I can remember being in the bathtub asking my mom to put bleach in the water so that my skin would be lighter and so that I could escape the feelings that I had about not being as beautiful, as acceptable, as lovable.” She never completes the comparison. She doesn’t have to.

The movie’s website asks “Has anything really changed since the days of American slavery when dark-skinned Blacks were made to suffer even greater indignities than their lighter skinned counterparts?” and by way of response, states “Ask today’s dark Black woman.” Of the women’s interviews, co-producer D. Channsin Berry noted, “These ladies broke it down to the degree that dark-skinned ‘sistas’ with ‘good’ hair vs. dark-skinned women with ‘kinky’ hair were given edges when it came time for coveted promotions.”

Apparently, hair matters deeply to many people. Recently, 12-year-old Vanessa Van Dyke, who is black, was threatened with expulsion from her school because her natural hair style did not meet the dress code. While the school has since rescinded their mandate that she straighten or cut her hair, they are continuing to insist that she “style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook.”

And in South Africa, under the regime of apartheid, hair was a major factor in classifying the race of a specific person, via the so-called “pencil test.” Authorities would place a pencil in the hair of a given person whose race was in doubt. If it fell out, that person was classified as white; if it remained, that person was classified as coloured. Black people could use a variation of the pencil test to request reclassification: if the pencil fell out of their hair when they shook their heads, they would be reclassified as coloured; if it remained, no change would occur.

As I write this, the world is mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, who won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to dismantle apartheid. That same year, he was elected as South Africa’s first Black president. Along with his inspirational work as an anti-racist, he also championed gender equity, once stating, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression,” (tweet from @MikePrysner) and today South Africa is ranked eighth in world in terms of the percentage of women in government, with 42.3% in the lower house and 32.1% in the upper house.

Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” On Friday night, the Students of Colour affinity group will be showing Dark Girls and holding a discussion. Hopefully, it will be a start to more conversation for, as Mr. Berry concluded, “The skin issue is a discussion we all need to have once and for all…so we can eradicate it.”

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Stop, Listen, and Learn… and Act

[note: this entry, written July 14-15, is the second of two postings on the George Zimmerman trial.]

Saturday night, my mom, stepfather, and I were watching the evening news off their DVR. Near the end of the broadcast, they mentioned there was no verdict yet in the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. We switched off the recording and returned to live TV, smack in the middle of the breaking news announcing the verdict of not guilty. If it is possible to be stunned and sickened without being shocked, that was how I felt – indeed, I believe that was how we all felt. When they started to replay the polling of the jury, I stood up suddenly. “I can’t watch this,” I said. “I’m going to bed.”

Going to bed did not necessarily mean going to sleep, of course. When not staring at the ceiling, like many others, I turned to social media to learn what other people were thinking, feeling, and saying. Notes of shock, disbelief, sorrow, anger – and, most disturbingly, celebration (some of which were quoted through the “Yes, You’re Racist” account) – flowed past on my timeline. I kept wanting to react, to say something, to do something – but after an initial statement, I worked hard to hold myself back, reading, absorbing, taking the pulse of the nation.

I watched initial numb shock give way to a wider variety of reactions – grief, sadness, impatience, anger, calls for action, calls for peace. I watched as the grief and the sadness settled in – not just for Trayvon Martin and his family, not just for Black families around the country who have to deal on a daily basis with the awareness that simply having darker skin makes you suspicious in the eyes of far too many people as well as the resulting fear, but also for our country which is falling so far short of our stated ideals. I watched as the anger and impatience coalesced into two main themes, “Don’t you dare tell me what my experience is!” and “Don’t you dare tell me what I should or should not be saying!” Some people were ready to jump right in and act immediately, others said, “Hold off. Give me time. Not tonight.”

Earlier this summer, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Sister Outsider, both Black feminists, were on Twitter asking their White followers why they would want to participate in those communities. Both made the polite but firm request that only those genuinely interested in listening and learning, in being appropriate and not appropriating, and in following up with genuine action including honest introspection, follow them. Their thoughts echoed in my mind Saturday night, and through the next day as well.

While I was finishing up this blog, Ms. Eddo-Lodge was on Twitter, writing “Quite regularly I’m asked by white people ‘now that I’ve noticed this, what can I do to help?'” and in response to that question, “How you help is not my responsibility. Use your own sphere of influence, use your white priv to press for change where you can.” Earlier, Sabrina Stevens (“TeacherSabrina” on Twitter) posted an excellent entry entitled “Would there ever be a Trayvon’s law?” in which she wrote, “We should never accept it as normal or natural that some children should just have to live with a deflated sense of worth and a heightened sense of fear, just because of where or what color they were born.” That points to the kind of change for which we need to be pressing, from whatever perspective we may be coming.

I remember in Humanities 7 one day, one of the students burst into tears during a discussion of racism. She was thinking not of herself, but of her younger brother, how kind and sweet and gentle he is, and how that is not at all how people who don’t know him see him. If we ever feel our energy flagging in our work to bring dignity and respect to all people, we can simply think of her and the millions of people just like her.

And then carry on.

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Once You Get to Know Them

It was Monday, April 15, 2013. Tax Day. Patriot’s Day. And a normal school day at Stoneleigh-Burnham. During Morning Announcements in my Humanities 7 class, the notion came up that Patriots’ Day was a day off for most residents of Massachusetts and Maine and, after some good-natured grumbling, the students got down to work. Out of a class of 10, seven students wanted to read from their independent writing, and the entire class listened carefully and patiently to over an hour’s worth of readings, bringing insight and empathy to their comments and suggestions. The rest of the period continued in the same vein, and later on my French 2 students would be similarly willing to work to understand at a deep level how you distinguish when to use the imparfait and when to use the passé composé instead.

Following this class, I went to Reception to meet the students who were travelling with me to volunteer at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. As we loaded up the car, one of the girls mentioned there had been some sort of an explosion in Boston and, thinking of the Boston Marathon and my cousins who were running in it and my brother who often is involved with it, I lent them my phone when one of theirs died so they could look up what happened. They stuck to the facts, which were still sketchy at the time – two explosions, some injuries – and we moved on to talk about other things.

Unfortunately, no one was at the animal shelter when we got there; they must have assumed we would have Patriots’ Day off like most other schools. The kids remained cheerful, I told them on the bright side from my perspective I enjoyed spending time with them on the car ride, and we headed back to the school. Talk turned to the song “Accidental Racist” and the controversy surrounding it, and once again the girls turned to their phones to pull up information that would get them facts. From what they could tell, the song didn’t seem so bad. Focusing on lyrics like “I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book / I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air,” they felt that that the singers, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, really wanted to look past surface appearances and get to know each other better. From the few lyrics I had heard, I agreed. (By the way, “Why ‘Accidental Racist’ is Actually Just Racist” in “the Atlantic” gives a superb analysis; I wish I’d read it, or listened to the song, before the car ride.)

There was nothing accidental about the racism I was to encounter that evening when I got home and caught up on the horrific events in Boston and people’s reactions through my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Beneath the torrent of facts, thoughts, and prayers ran a disturbing undercurrent; Logan James, who runs the Twitter account “Yes, You’re Racist” was working overtime retweeting deeply offensive remarks about President Obama, Black people and Arabs. At one point, Mr. James paused to comment: “Currently experiencing one of the highest rates of racist tweets about President Obama I’ve seen since the election #StayClassyAmerica” A little later on, Elon James White, who runs the program “This Week in Blackness,” signed on to Twitter. Clearly deeply angry, he began to retweet his own selection of deeply offensive and racist sentiments. At several points, people commented on their despair for the future of the country, as for example one person who wrote: “not sure if I should laugh, ignore or argue. The young seem a lost cause.”

A lost cause? Not the kids I know. Heaven knows there are vicious racists out there among young people as well as among the adults they are most likely emulating. But the kids I know believe what’s on the surface doesn’t matter, that you have to learn to get past initial impressions and truly get to know people, that racism is wrong, that sexism is wrong, that (to paraphrase Ferris Bueller) ism’s in general are not good. They care for and respect each other, and bring a dignity to their interactions.

They’re the kind of kids who can’t begin to understand why someone would set two bombs to go off in a location where they might kill an eight-year-old boy and injure a two-year-old, and the kind of kids who can’t begin to understand how a conversation about a horrific tragedy could disintegrate so quickly into petty partisan politics, reckless racist remarks, and the complete dismissal of an entire generation.

So while I understand why people might want to give up on young people, I beg to differ. Indeed, in one of my catch phrases, “They’re really nice, once you get to know them.” I wish more people could. They might be able to go to sleep with some degree of hopefulness and optimism even after a day like today.

And now that this is written, I shall too.

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Incontestably Human

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted that she was riding in a taxi when the driver told her, “You know, you’re very lovely, very classy for a black lady.” Flabbergasted (her word), she responded, “Well, I’m sure you THOUGHT that was a compliment, so thank you.” During the Facebook conversation that followed this retelling, one of her friends commented, “Educating people out of their disillusion, fear, and stereotyping is a difficult thing, no?”

Yes, it is. And perhaps especially so with racism, since our country has evolved to the point where most people become deeply hurt, offended, and/or angry if someone calls them, or something they said, racist. That already complicates things enough when you’re talking about someone’s individual views, actions, and statements, but when someone, perhaps even someone who is deeply anti-racist, believes, does, or says something that is completely well intentioned but which is steeped in systemic racism, it can become almost impossible to start a discussion.

Interestingly, while sexism is also a huge problem in our country, I’m not sure the same level of tension always exists when attempting to start a conversation about a specific incident whether rooted in individual beliefs or infused by a systemic sexism. And that brings us to a recent incident at Phillips Academy, an independent high school commonly known as Andover as it is located in that Massachusetts town.

For me, it began with Soraya Chemaly (a Huffington Post writer on gender issues who, it turns out, attended Andover) tweeting a link to an editorial in “The Phillipian,” the school’s student newspaper, entitled “Not Post-Gender Yet.” I read it, loved it, and retweeted it. The author of the editorial, a sophomore named Grace Tully, began by stating common misconceptions of what a feminist is and affirming the need to break down those (mostly negative) stereotypes, stating: “It is our job as a generation to change that.” She wrote of the historical silencing of women and the ongoing issue of sexual objectification. Looking at a recent and ongoing controversy on her campus, she noted the issue of “a latent fear that the empowerment of women will result in the disempowerment of men.” In the end, she argued, “The fight for gender equality should not be limited to any specific orientation, political party, culture, religion or sex. It is an incontestably human fight that should encompass us all.”

The controversy at Andover to which Ms. Tully was referring involves elections for the Student Council co-presidents. Since the 1973 merger between the all-male Phillips Academy and the all-female Abbot Academy, the school has had only four female presidents. In what is commonly thought to be an attempt to address this issue, this year’s Student Council implemented a structural change in which pairs of students would run as co-presidents. The finalists included one team of two boys and one team of a boy and a girl. Thus, when a letter to the editor of “The Phillipian” dated March 1, 2013 asked students to “Keep in mind long term consequences—the pair you select could set a precedent and break down any remaining barriers for both boys and girls to run in the future,” tensions around issues of gender and fairness ignited.

Katherine Q. Seelye, in preparation for writing the “New York Times” article “School Vote Stirs Debate on Girls as Leaders,” spoke to a number of students to get their takes on the situation. Many of the girls felt that “previous generations of women had broken down important legal barriers, but today’s struggle was against a less overt sexism that was embedded in cultural attitudes.” (Seelye) As Jinq Qu, an 18-year-old Senior, observed “The access has been achieved, but the equality in terms of roles has not.” Meanwhile, Daniel Feeny, a 16-year-old student, said he had been raised with feminist values and added “It’s surprising to me to get here and see women say they are still treated unfairly.” The phrasing is key here – is the surprise purely that women are claiming unfair treatment, or is it also that women are in fact treated unfairly?

Daniel’s situation brings up what many of this year’s 8th graders in our school have told me about their experience. They believe strongly that, as girls, they are being taken seriously and genuinely encouraged to use and develop their voices. Their concern is what will happen in the outside world once they graduate. How will they develop the resilience, persistence, and assertiveness necessary to survive in a world that, like it or not, is still sexist?

Meanwhile, one of our faculty members shared a link to the “New York Times” article on our email system, intending to provoke (and succeeding in provoking) further thought on the notion of girls and leadership. And in point of fact, in recent years, our own school has not had vast multitudes of candidates for the position of President of Student Council even though, by definition, we know a girl is going to win.

Examine for a moment of your own reaction to the sentence you just read. What were you thinking? That girls need to push themselves in to leadership positions more often? That girls’ leadership styles need to be considered? That girls’ needs for connections can be both a blessing and a curse? That girls may have more difficulty being competitive than boys (for internal or external reasons)? That there may actually be non-gender-based reasons why more students don’t run for President of Student Council? Really, any or all of these reasons, and more, could conceivably explain it. It’s hard to tell for sure.

That’s how systemic sexism works. It sits there in the background, coloring our thoughts, making it difficult to sort out the truth, silently and invisibly confusing the matter and complicating efforts to work for equality. An anonymous commenter on the original letter to the editor seems to have nailed it: “Also, the issue of a lack of female leadership stretches far beyond Andover and is arguably (and unfortunately) the result of sentiments deeply rooted in our collective cultural psyche. Simply changing the election model and asking voters to favor male-female tickets does not address these sentiments, and frankly seems like an artificial way of speeding up a reform whose time has not yet come, and whose time will not come until deeper issues are dealt with.”

In other words, we need to fight Grace Tully’s fight. John Palfrey, Andover’s Head of School, set the context in saying, ” “We do not live in a post-gender, post-race, post-class society. Girls have not had equal access to top leadership positions.” The victorious candidates at Andover, Junious Williams and Clark Perkins, have said “During our presidency, we will host a series of campus-wide forums discussing gender equity in student leadership.” (both quotes from the article by Seelye) My son attended Andover and in my experience, when they decide to face up to something that needs attention, they make a genuine effort to follow through.

So let’s identify and discuss those deeper issues. Let’s deal with them. And, echoing the words of John Palfrey among many others, let’s have the courage to face up not to the work we have to do not only on sexism but also on racism. Let’s also acknowledge the role of classism in this country. The issues are, after all, interrelated.

You can’t change a society overnight. But you can start by changing, bit by bit, the parts of society that make up the whole. And when, one day, finally, even if it is (as Rachel Simmons implied earlier this year) after we are dead, we reach a critical mass of changed parts, we’ll suddenly discover that society itself will have been changed.

And that will be one happy day.

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I’m Tired

I’m tired.

I’m tired of hearing about kids dying by gunfire. I’m tired of writing about kids who die by gunfire. I’m tired of wondering whether people are tired of me writing about kids dying by gunfire. And I’m tired of arguing whether anyone should be writing about kids dying by gunfire.

At least we all agree on one thing: it’s a tragedy when a kid dies suddenly and unexpectedly simply because someone else decided, for whatever reason and sometimes without even knowing their victim, that they should die.

Or do we?

In the wake of Sandy Hook, one of my friends essentially implied that my shock and horror were racist because of the fact that these were white kids in a well-to-do town where “that sort of thing doesn’t happen.” I bristled, and wrote back a fiery response stating that I had no idea of any of the demographics of the tragedy when I first heard about it, that it was the age of the kids and the sheer number of victims that provoked the depth of my reaction.

And then I cooled down and thought a little more about it. And the truth is, Sandy Hook had to be reported in the media for me to learn about it. And the media, like it or not and however unconsciously, do report crimes against white people differently from crimes against people of colour. So my reaction, however colour-blind, and independently of the anti-racist attitudes I actively try to communicate and nurture, was nonetheless embedded in the cultural racism of our society and the privilege of my own whiteness. Like it or not, I couldn’t deny it.

Recently, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down in a Chicago park. Again, there was an angle to her story that would pull at the heartstrings of the country – an honor student at her high school, loved and respected by friends and teachers, a majorette who had performed at President Obama’s inauguration, randomly shot by gang members in a city where gun violence is out of control.

Oh, and, for those who might wonder about such a thing, she was Black.

Her race shouldn’t matter, of course. Which is kind of the point. But – how many people, in learning of the tragedy, whether or not they made any assumptions about Hadiya’s race, assumed the gang members were Black?

And suppose that gang member was Black and shot a Black member of another gang? Would that death have received the same attention?

My grandmother used to say that each person, whatever else was true of their lives, was born to parents who loved them and had dreams for them. Perhaps a slight overgeneralization, but basically true. And at any rate, each life has value, each life has its place. The loss of a life is a loss to all, a collective loss, not just to those who knew the person.

And so, I write. I follow the Twitter account @gundeaths, whose aim is to share and in so doing mark every single gun death in the U.S. I bear in mind the words of my friend as well as the words of my advisees when they spoke out against empty gestures when kids die by violent means and the too-often-imposed veil of silence over other tragic deaths such as suicides. I contact my members of Congress, wade into discussions of how to reduce violence, prevent suicides, and ensure as many kids as possible grow up to have their own kids. I work to rid our society of embedded racism – as well as gender prejudice, socioeconomic prejudice, and, well, prejudice in general.

Oh, yes, I’m tired.

So?

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