Now that we, as a Nation, seem to be passionately engaged in our quest to find, and root out, all racism; I thought it might be instructive to tell a couple stories illustrating how useful of a tool this is.
The first involves a 6th grade class I taught several years ago. There was a girl in it who had lost her father in the 3rd grade in an accident. She was ‘black’. ‘Sarah’ (not her real name) was out of control in her behavior. She was rude, disruptive and downright assaultive in class. Her entire demeanor was one of disrespect and scorn.
When I spoke up about her behavior, I was told that although it was indeed ‘out of control’; I needed to have compassion on her. ‘She’s black,’ I was informed, ‘and then her father died. Is there any wonder that she is acting out?’ It was essentially implied that, being black, she couldn’t do any better. She was a victim. The tragedy of her father’s death was ‘too much’. She had an older brother who she was living with. He and his wife did everything they could for Sarah. They were an amazing young couple. Yet whenever they would make progress, the school’s ‘compassion’ for her disruptive behavior would set her back once again.
And so, I put up with it all year. So did my poor students who shared classes with her. It was an awful year. I tried everything I could to reach out to this child; racked my brain day and night. On weekends, I searched out activities and lessons that would help build her up; help her realize she was competent and capable of so much more. Her behavior just got worse.
With all the attention Sarah was getting, the other students were somewhat neglected; and so, it wasn’t until near the end of the school year that I was able to have some extra time to spend with ‘Allie’ (not her real name). She was ‘white’. She and her friend came into my room to help during my lunchbreak with something I was setting up for the class. Allie was a quiet, sweet girl with a friendly smile and a helping hand. Although not a stellar student, she tried her hardest; often seeking extra help to do so. She was a joy to have in class.
During this visit, she and her friend discussed their weekend plans. I asked if their parents were going to whatever function they had wanted to attend. Allie said, very quietly, “Oh, my dad died when I was in the 3rd grade. He was in a terrible car accident. So, I’ll just ask my mom.”
And I just stared. Then I gave her a hug, and told her how sorry I was; and how proud I was of her.
The difference ‘compassion’ makes? Allie didn’t know that she was a ‘Victim’; and so, she went on to have a successful and hopeful future. Sarah? By the last quarter of school, she had been kicked out after verbally assaulting the Principal. God only knows what became of her education.
Labeling people as ‘Victims’ of anything is not compassionate; it is cowardice. It just means we don’t want to deal with the human beings they are - and the choices they are making. It means we get to ‘feel good’ about how ‘noble’ we are; while we throw them to the wolves of reality, and the future. It’s cruelty; plain and simple.
My second story is illustrative of how we find racism.
A friend of mine, Jane (not her real name) was at her local bank. She is ‘white’. Every Friday, she goes to cash her paycheck; and she is good friends with the tellers. She tells them how happy she is, looking forward to getting together with her friends that evening, as they meet every Friday for margaritas.
One Friday, Jane went up to her teller-friend. The friend asked how Jane’s week had been; and Jane said: “Horrible! I was so stressed at work, but it doesn’t matter now. It’s Friday, and tonight I meet with my people for margaritas!”
The teller began to chuckle until they both heard an angry voice from the woman next in line. The woman was ‘black’. “Your “people”?!” she exclaimed, “Isn’t that a bit racist?!”
Jane turned to look at her in surprise, and said as politely as she could, “Excuse me?”
The woman responded, “Don’t you think you might have a little too much White Privilege?!!”
Jane tried again, “I don’t think you understand.”
At that, the woman yelled at her, “YOU RACIST BITCH!!” and stormed out.
Jane, and all the other tellers, stood there in shock.
This woman was obviously looking for ‘racism’ everywhere - and guess what? She found it. Even where none existed.
And that’s the lesson of looking for ‘Racism’. You will ALWAYS find it, because we all find what we look for. That is a lesson that has been known since the dawn of time; but for some strange reason - forgotten lately.
And when you ‘find’ it - it will not improve your life. It will destroy it.
Now might be a good time to keep these lessons in mind.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.