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Learning at its Best

Dear Black Teenagers of 2012,

Earlier this evening I was browsing through my Facebook and I came across this post a former schoolmate made which I must say… surprised me. The post which said: 

“You have no room to judge what is prejudice and what is not”


That line is the line that raises the most cause for concern. The line disregards the current socioeconomic and educational climate in the US and across the globe. It disregards the struggles of the past and the struggles of the current in an attempt to undermine the notion that today people do not find themselves being denied access to what they are guaranteed access to. That line there attempts suggest that today, young Black, Mexican, Hispanic, Russian, South Asian teenagers and teenagers of many other nationalities and races do not have the rights they are supposed to have access to denied or stripped away simply because the way the look.

However, the line that goes on to say “ You didn’t live back then” goes further to continue to not only undermine issues of racial impropriety but also goes to undermine instances of sexist, transphobic and homophobic impropriety. It suggests that, because we as teenagers today did not live when instances of social unjustness had reached their peak that we have no right to continue to fight to keep the progress that was made. It suggests that problems are only supposed to be fought once and then whatever subsequent regression occurs just occurs.

The problem with those notions though, is that they suggest that we as youth today cannot continue to fight the underlying root causes in the social injustices that exist within our society and within our academic system. Those notions suggest that we as youth today have no right to fight the school to prison pipeline, pregnancy push out and slut shaming, or segregation in schools. Those suggestions however are damming and possibly disastrous because if we as youth today do not combat the inhibitions that exist  now we will never be able to fight them without full discretion  and we will never be able to prepare the children of tomorrow to fight them.



2 thoughts on “Dear Black Teenagers of 2012,

  1. Mr. Chisley:

    Your former schoolmate’s words can be read as a serious message or as a satire. Either way, the storyline seems to be: “I never owned a slave. My parents did not own slaves. You aren’t a slave. Your parents were not slaves. ‘They’ need to get over it and shut up because this is the 21st century. Race is dead because of all the civil rights laws. The problem lies in culture, socioeconomic class, educational attainment, morals, laziness, welfare mentality or bad attitudes.”

    The claim of “I’m not a racist” joined with an accusation of “reverse discrimination” constitutes a widely used “one-two-punch” tactic. One sees it used many arenas – replace race/color differences with a difference of culture, socioeconomic class, educational attainment, biological sex, gender or religion, then look around and listen to the stories told about “those other folks”.

    The tactic is used by individuals so acclimated to a position of power or privilege they are not consciously aware of its existence. When it is pointed out to them, they deny its existence and immediately attempt to blame/shame those who dare challenge that denial. This misdirects attention, and the focus shifts to what is being said rather than the underlying issues of substance. A situation is created that tends to devolve into a “she said this, and then he said that” mess.

    It is clear from your post that you know inequalities and inequities exist well beyond the matter of race/color, but since your schoolmate played the White “race card”, perhaps you might ask that individual “What is it like to be white?”

    I’ve asked that question, and by doing so alienated an entire class of adults taking an MA-level course entitled “Diversity in the Workplace”. Despite various discussions along the lines of, “…feeling so very sorry for the elderly Black janitor I found crying in the supply room because of names he had just been called…”, not a single student thought of the privilege their skin affords them. They were Italian-Americans, of German and other European backgrounds but “white”? Not a chance…

    I think a similar questions could be asked about other issues. What is it like to be straight? To be male? To be “educated”? I ask these and other questions of myself, and when I’m not pleased with my answers I take heart in knowing I am still a “student” – I am still learning.


    Posted by Brent Snavely | October 3, 2012, 4:41 pm
  2. Great questions.

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 4, 2012, 7:56 pm

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