This ShoutOut! is dedicated to the Board of Education in Henrico County- perpetuating the current system of inequality and hence making our generation’s students even more ignorant by the school day!
Recently, a video was presented to students as part of a first-ever Black History Month program at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Virginia (approx. 14 miles from Richmond) by Virginia Commonwealth University professor Dr. Ravi Perry. The four-minute short, titled “Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race” was created by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a gender and racial thinktank founded by none other than the intersectionality queen herself- Kimberlé Crenshaw. It was produced to plainly present the many historical and structural barriers that aid in creating difficult life circumstances faced by minority communities, and was intended to precede a facilitated discussion amongst its viewers. The metaphor of a racetrack obstructed by “race-based obstacles,” is a reality for these communities confronted with discrimination, poor schooling, racial profiling, the school-to-prison pipeline, and housing discrimination. The “race” metaphor builds upon the AAPF’s inspiration for the video, President Lyndon Johnson’s observation: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” Ditto- systematic racism, oppression, and privilege. Concepts that are not easily digested by many, especially those who have the most privilege (i.e. white people), which is why the reaction received from some community members is honestly unsurprising. Cue the irate, outraged parents. The e-mails and phone calls flooded in almost immediately, decrying “white guilt,” inappropriate and divisive topics, “reverse racism,” and the like. Although the video has been used in a vast number of public and private institutions to cultivate what Crenshaw describes as “honest engagement with the continuing legacy of our history,” the School Board’s chair, Micky Ogburn declared it “racially divisive” and promised to “prevent the use of racially divisive materials in the future.” Aw. Lovely. Censorship is always the answer in order to protect the minds of our future from the honest social issues that surround them amiright, Micky? As a country we can no longer turn a blind eye, feign ignorance, claim that the past is simply history, hence denying the fact that is our current system of inequality, one that is both shaped and molded by past and current United States policies.
Countless. The number of times in the past few years I’ve sat in college classrooms wondering…why the hell we hadn’t learned some of these mind-blowing, worldview-altering things in the uh- 12ish years of schooling prior to college? Why hadn’t we talked candidly about race in the public establishments allegedly established to foster the minds of conscientious global citizens? Why didn’t we learn about our country’s old and new hushed history of genocide? And why wasn’t privilege a topic we broke down in our K-12 classrooms, raising questions and provoking thoughtful discussion on such an integral matter in our lives and society? The first time many adolescents encounter these fundamental issues in our society is in spaces where misinformation abounds (for me- Tumblr. Sigh.), furthering many Americans miseducation on the facts of modern and thriving racial inequality and the ways in which it is embedded in our society.
“This censorship of material that highlights historical and present-day policies constitutes an alarming capitulation to those who would prefer our youth to remain blissfully ignorant about the foundations of contemporary racial inequality,” said AAPF Executive Director Kimberlé Crenshaw.
The School Board’s decision to censor vital multicultural education sets an ugly precedent for our public education system. It puts educators at risk if they choose to swim against the tide and actually teach these very real, very serious issues. You can watch the video here, find AAPF talking points here, and read Kimberlé Crenshaw’s wonderfully articulated response to the haters here (I implore you to read her other works of literature as well). If you give a shit about democracy in our country, you’ll inform yourself on these issues, support those committed to having difficult conversations about them, and foster productive discussion with your own friends, family, frenemies, and Furbies.
featured image screenshot by inthemotheroffing