“I don’t blame the kids. I blame the adults.” The silence hung in the air as I uttered those words to the principal of Weber High School in Utah. The President of the NAACP Salt Lake City Chapter recommended that he watch “The Uncomfortable Truth” and put us in contact with each other.
I thanked him for recognizing that there is an issue and wanting to do something about it. The five students who recorded themselves saying “F*&$ N-word” were just the ones who got caught and it wasn’t just happening at Weber High.
The kids don’t know what they don’t know. We just assume they would but how could they if they aren’t being taught the complete history of our country? It’s not about making America look bad it’s about making America look complete. No nation is without its warts and atrocities. Why would we assume the United States is any different?
Our teachers try their best but they often don’t know themselves and when they do try the community (parents and other “concerned” citizens) complain. Why? Because they weren’t taught either and when they are confronted with the uncomfortable truth the walls go up. They retreat into their safe place which only continues to perpetuate the myths. I’ve been accused, more than once, of trying to rewrite history and my response is always the same, “Yes, I’m rewriting it back to what it should have been.”
I had someone tell me that I can’t possibly know anything about racism when I live in a community that is 98% white. This is an idiotic argument of course but at the same time this very white community doesn’t think it needs to talk about racism because, well, there aren’t a lot of “them” around anyway. And so you have high school students saying things they don’t really understand. They don’t know the history. They aren’t sensitized to the deeper context. If they were they more than likely wouldn’t be saying it.
The principal of Weber High and I are looking at some dates to do a program with the students. To him, this isn’t a one time thing. He wants to do more. The local university is interested in being involved and extended it to other schools. This is a good thing. We need this sort of openness everywhere. The issue wasn’t brushed under the rug or ignored. It was confronted even when it was uncomfortable to do so. I thanked the principal for his willingness to do something.
I ended our conversation with a final thought, “I don’t think these girls were being taught to be racist but are they being taught not to be racist because there’s a difference? And yes, we’d like to think that happens in the home but is happening in our schools?”