Themes discussed had to do with the issue of tracking. The notion of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps was mentioned as being a term that is infused with hope and possibility and tracking strips people of that. The idea that success breeds and feeds hope is an important one.
Dexter and Amy talked about their experience in her class talking about the “N” Word. Dexter took the students to 1837 to establish a concentrated intense discussion about naming in the free Black community in terms of what Black people should call themselves. Many argued to stop calling themselves African because that calls up images of people who are savage and who belong back in Africa.
Dexter wanted to let the students know that this debate is not new and that the “N” word has a history and further that names matter. Once we accept a name it begins to influence our identity. Samuel Cornish bemoaned, that despite what these blacks called themselves, “their FRIENDS and their FOES, in the convention, in the Assembly and in the Senate; through the pulpit and the press, call them nothing else but NEGROES.” (Colored American (New York) 15 March 1838; rpt. in Black Abolitionist Papers 3: 263). (Dexter B. Gordon, Black Identity 109).
Then jumped to the Kramer YouTube video. We watched it also. When asked for reactions, one participant said that she fully expects at any given time to be called that word by a white person each time she goes out the door.
Another talked about how frightening it is to realize that all one has to be is black to elicit that rage and where does that rage come from?
Some were astonished that no one took the mike away from him. Another participant mentioned that young people are often quick to justify their use of the word as an endearment, but never talk about the rage in their use of the word when they commit violence against one another.
Dexter observed that inside the classroom all the girls and most of the guys thought the word was not ok to use. There were only a few that said it was not a problem. One of the girls said that she didn’t like the word and she used to say something each time but it got worse, so now she doesn’t say anything anymore, but she still doesn’t like it.
Another reaction was how the video shows the whole history coming up right through him and was also struck by the way “Kramer” said at the end “That’s what happens when you interrupt a white man.”
Amy mentioned that even though the kids “said” that the word didn’t bother them, she pointed out to them that they all reacted when hearing the word on the videos she and Dexter showed.
Another participant talked about the first time he publicly heard the word used and it was when he was a kid and with a friend of his who was black.
We watched another clip, this time form the show “Boston Public” in which two friends, one white and one black, who are overheard by another black student to engage in calling each other the “N” word. When he objects, a fight ensues.
There was a question about whether the discussion in the high school classroom turned at all to how to deal with interrupting use of the “N” word. Another brought up how sometimes it’s relatively easy and other times very difficult to interrupt use of racial slurs.
One member talked about a huge problem of teachers using the “N” word against their students at Cleveland High School in Seattle. It would be very interesting if students from around the Puget Sound came together to discuss this.
Another person mentioned that he thinks white people have a fascination with the word and even though they say they don’t use it, they often do, but “only in educational settings” where the use of the word is being discussed or for context of a story. He said we should question whether white people have the right to use it, even in an educational setting and still say that it should not be used.
Some participants talked about how communication can be misconstrued, where another person said that, yes—but, we all know what respect is.
Another person said he wasn’t sure that people were all that clear on basic respect—taking the “F” word as an example, which he is very offended by and that seemingly everyone uses.
Finally a participant talked about even when people know what not to say and use code words. She also talked about Beverly Tatum’s of the moving walkway at the airport as an analogy for racism. To be an ally against racism is to turn around and walk against the direction.
Dexter suggested finally that we all take a look at language. He would also like to invite us to interact with those we might feel a little uncomfortable. And if we are going to be people of justice, we must intervene, especially when it’s not about us. And we’ve got to interrupt injustice anywhere we see it.
Social relationships are developed by people and they can be changed by people.
Feb. 23rd and March 2nd New Orleans Monologues at Theatre on the Square to purchase tickets, click here.
Feb 24th WA History Museum Panel Discussion on Minority Health Disparities
March 10th King’s Books Speaker Series David Bacon
Feb. 26th 7pm Pierce College-Puyallup Langston Hughes Project-Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz-Live Music. Spoken Word. Visual Images
Feb 29th United for Peace Pierce County & King's Books present Davis Smith Ferri and his multimedia presentation on his encounters with Iraqi people. Poetry reading and slide show included. For info in this and more UFPPC events at King's Books, click here.
Mar. 5th 7pm also, at Pierce-Puyallup Ngugi Wa Thiongo Details
Monday Nights from 7-8:30pm, United for Peace and Justice hosts a book discussion series at Mandolin Cafe at the Mandolin Café
March UWT is having a panel on Health disparities.
For a multicultural experience-Blue Mouse Theater's International Sister City Film Festival, going on now, every Thurs. a film from one our sister cities, plus food. For details, click here.
April 26 4pm at Mt. Tahoma H.S. Ebony Fashion Fair-Sponsored by the Tacoma Urban League Guild and is the main revenue generator of the Guild. With tickets you also get subscription to Ebony or Jet.
Sunday, February 10, 2008