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Commentary: The Effort To Advance A More Inclusive Education

Peter Goodman


  Commentary: There’s a human race. One, homo sapiens.

The malarkey about black, white, yellow, or red races was a false construct used to justify slavery and other forms of exploitation of fellow humans.

That construct was central to (and a massive flaw in) our democracy. U.S. citizens held slaves. States enforced enslavement with laws, and vicious slave-catchers. Our Constitution denied blacks, women, and poor folks the right to vote, and made each southern slaveholder’s vote more powerful than a northerner’s vote.

Systemic racism. We’ve battled to escape that, even fought a war. We’ve made great strides.

Anti-Black (and -brown and -red) bias is still systemic, not only in certain states’ new voting laws, but all around us. Hiding photos of a black family and removing Afro-American-themed books and art can double their home’s appraised value. Prospective employers call job candidates named Emily Grandchester and Greg Wyndham 50% more often than they do Latisha Washington and Jamal Jones, despite equal qualifications. Researchers say a white-sounding name is worth about eight years of work experience. (Heard of Jon Gruden?) Saying our country has grown colorblind says the speaker’s willfully blind.

Some educators are trying to get more real. But some folks can’t bear admitting our nation’s flaws, or their own. Texas reacted so severely with H.B. 3979 that frightened teachers are scrambling to find books giving “the opposing perspective” on the Holocaust. (Will they have to teach both sides of the “controversial view” that we revolve around the Sun?)

We all know, whether or not we always follow it, that expressing and discussing problems and negative feelings can clear up misunderstandings and spark a frank discussion that helps everyone, while holding negative feelings inside, can let them fester into something worse. Married folks know that. So do sports teammates and office co-workers.

Even kids know it. Most couldn’t say why, but they feel it. Fear of the other is somewhat natural, but getting to know strangers can help. Understanding that racism is in most all of us, and is something to outgrow, is healthier than leaving questions and confusion lurking about in kids’ hearts. Doesn’t mean it should be a big deal, or detract from learning the rules of grammar or who signed the Declaration of Independence, but learning how notions of superiority fed our thinking could be thought-provoking. “When we talk about race with our children, we don’t burden them, we free them.” That’s from "What I Learned from my White Grandchildren" – a Ted Talk I recommend.

Locally, an organized right wing effort seeks to use the present election to rescind Policy JBC, which would increase openness and equity in education.

Your vote for school board could be the most important one you cast this November. Our kids are our future. They deserve the best we can offer, not fact-denying ideological zealots. I’m sure those zealots are sincere; but they’re dangerously wrong.