Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Awake? Aware?

It's been a difficult couple of weeks in my little corner of the intertubes. And not the teaching... that's been going really well. But outside of my own experience, some serious shit has been going down. A lot of it having to do with race.

I used to believe that I was really aware. I mean, aware. I was a liberal. I celebrated the heritage of the Civil Rights movement. Back in the 80s, I boycotted products that invested in South Africa. Sure, I lived in a town with very few black people, but growing up, my best friend was black. I had credentials!

Did that make me aware? Short answer: no. Long answer: HELLLLL, NOOOOOOO!!!!

The Jena Six (check out Elle's coverage, it's excellent) is just the tip of the iceberg. I may have had good liberal credentials, but I had no fucking idea. The stories that these events have brought up, the experiences of friends of mine, blog authors I read, the nitty gritty of what it is like to be black (and poor, and rural, and you name it), I had no idea. And truth be told, I probably liked it better when I didn't.

W.E.B. DuBois said that the question of the 20th Century would be the race question. He underestimated. This nation has a lot of shit to examine. And pretending it doesn't exist, or that it's isolated, or that's it's the past, or that it's far away, or that it's only the uneducated or the poor or the rural or the Southern is to ignore just how prevalent the question of race remains.

I'd like to thank those people out there who've shared with me their insight on this. And I hope to keep learning.

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Blogger Patricia said...

I took a very interesting workshop in business school on interpersonal dynamics, and we had an entire week devoted to racism. Might be eight (yep, eight) of the most interesting hours I've ever spent in class. My big takeaway (and there were many) is that it is literally impossible to truly understand another's experience and frame of reference, no matter how you strive to enlighten yourself. You really can't walk in anyone else's shoes. But by starting from a recognition that absolutely everyone who is conscious has prejudices, it's a easier to find ways to move forward.
The Jena 6 thing is enormously upsetting, but a lot more upsetting is the realization that the "big" incidents are far less common than all the everyday occurances that we don't even notice half the time.

I think the "race issue" (for lack of a better term) frequently masks socio-economic divide, which IMHO is just as insideous and problematic, maybe moreso. Living as a 15% minority in my currrent neighborhood has been eye-opening on this front. Watching a neighborhood change is fascinating.

4:13 PM  
Blogger elle said...

thank you for this

6:42 PM  
Blogger Quinn said...

no, elle, I should be thanking you.

7:25 PM  

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