Dear teachers, students, and faculty members:
There is no denying that the historical negative media representation of black Americans have created a one-dimensional definition of our black experience; and it has, quite unfortunately, created a space whereby White Americans are allowed to absolve themselves from crime and ill-behavior, and place complete accountability of social ills on the backs of black Americans.
We are a default cancer, it seems. It wasn’t too long ago that the Jews were as well. But whereas white on white violence is centered on class and cultural differences, our country has managed to lump all black people into one black bucket, regardless of class, in which anything a single black person does reflects on our entire race. “Ghetto” was a term used, initially, for the Jews.
Putting the human condition into greater historical context can fill the empathy gap, but apparently we have adults that don’t see the damage in perpetuating myths and negative portrayals of black people.
So when a presenter at Harriton High School made a racist and classist remark about Philadelphia neighborhoods during an X-ray viewing of a cat, it sent an unintentional (or intentional) message to my daughter (and to black students) at the predominantly white school: you are a visitor, not a fellow American.
Kids pick up on this widening empathy gap, where white administrators, teachers, and even presenters forget to teach young students, particularly white privileged students, how not to repeat the history of hate, classism, and prejudice.
It’s always the subtle racial microaggressions that sends the strongest messages, and no Jewish parent would sit idly by and allow these microaggressions to strip their child’s agency away. As a Black-American man, I am no exception.
A specific demographic of Black Americans, these innovative and creative humans, live in these downtrodden neighborhoods. It is an area that despite public funding and the hypocritical moral mantra of being “one” American nation is beautifully resilient. It has produced and influence popular mainstream American culture; the Jazz in your intellectual spaces; the Hip-Hop clothes your kids are wearing; the Historical Black Colleges and Universities, astrophysicist, tech-savvy millennials…the list goes on.
Black American production isn’t celebrated or glamorized; it’s simply worn and disposed of. But the ills in our community is celebrated, glamorized, and used as fodder for one of your presenters. This presenter, by his actions, suggests that there isn’t any issue in the “white community” whatsoever. It comes at great privilege and quite advantageous to simply ignore the high rate of white suicides and drug use, the alcoholism, the controversies surrounding Catholic priests, the alarming abortion rates, white-collar crimes, college cheating scandals, the list can go on and on.
Timothy C Brooks, who was convicted recently of running a marijuana business, showed that even the wealthy aren’t immune to crime and drugs. He was NOT from the Ghetto and neither is The Haverford School. Those guys involved the Main Line prep school drug ring was not from or in the ghetto.
Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer who fatally shot 20 children, was not from the ghetto. The Columbine massacre was not in the ghetto.
It’s also a great privilege, historically, to forget white children and their black caretakers and nannies. We’ve nursed and wiped their asses, and gave them unconditional love. You’ve trusted us with your children, but you’ve yet taken the steps to acknowledge our humanity—instead, we are seen and overwhelmingly viewed as ghetto first and an exceptional American second.
White Americans in the United States don’t have to reconcile with the epidemic of white-on-white crime or white downtrodden neighborhoods, even though FBI statistics shows that 83 percent of white American murder victims are killed by white Americans.
It would be wise to pay closer attention to your community by watching the registered child molesters rather than perpetuate black fear in your child’s mind.
And mentioning the issues in the “white community” is NOT a veiled tit for tat attack; it’s a reckoning with facts and context. It’s a way of forcing the dominant culture to analyze itself and humanize the black and brown experience, which is essentially the human experience.
It’s a way of reconciling with the horrible cultural pathology that permeates our hypocritical American society. We are ruined by skewed perceptions of black and brown crime while White Americans absolve themselves from those statistics and perceptions. Everything is attributed to our race, but all crimes by white people are attributed to the individual that commits it. As it should be, but there is an unfair imbalance.
With that said, my child shouldn’t have to carry the burden of downtrodden neighborhoods and negative black perceptions at her place of education. We demand the same respect as others. We demand the same dignity.
If you were sincere about inclusion and diversity, you’d stop this from ever happening again. Creating a solution is the civilized thing to do.
Most importantly, my children and I demand to be seen as fellow Americans that are contributing to the human condition. Stripping us from our demands also hurt white students—no child wants to carry the burden of being the oppressor, the bully—so, meeting these demands would be equally beneficial for everyone in an ever-growing society trying to uphold it’s American ideals and values.
If you want more relevant commentary that could potential benefit your students and the disingenuous presenter, please visit the socially conscious website Oogeewoogee.com