conversations, how to apologize, and racial integration

Today was gloriously beautiful, and it’s going to be sunny and increasingly warm all week. Yippee!

On the morning’s walk to collect the car I ran into a neighbor, the husband of one of my cello students. We had an enjoyable conversation, covering schooling, learning languages, music, encouraging the acquisition of the skill of discipline in your kids, etc. All of this took place under blue skies and sunshine.

After that I practiced, yay! I have started working on the Kodaly Duo for Violin and Cello, and am enjoying the work.

This evening I read an article posted on Facebook by a friend about apologies, how to do them and how not to do them. It’s written by a teacher, but it sounds like a good strategy within a family, too. The results reported by the teacher in the behavior of the kids in her classroom are pretty great. One foundation for compassion is consciousness, and if you’re not used to thinking about your behavior and the impact it has on others, it’s hard to develop compassion, either the feeling or the action. And it makes sense that requiring the regurgitation of an apology when it is completely insincere would backfire. It’s also true that sometimes (often, all the time?) as a parents it’s hard to know what else to do when your kids hurt each other.

This afternoon I also finished a very powerful article about re-segregation in this country, as federal enforcement has diminished or ceased, and school districts have found a variety of ways, subtle and not, to re-isolate black and Hispanic students. This has disastrous consequences for the students, their communities, and ultimately, for us all. We must live together, eat together, learn together, talk together in order to learn to accept differences and even to celebrate them. Isolation never leads to equality, never leads to understanding. We need integration, we need Affirmative Action, and we need justice. We cannot count on people coming together when they feel like it. We need incentives, we need rules, and we need oversight. The stakes are high, and the continuation of the terrible price of slavery cannot be allowed unchallenged.

Justice is not blind, and there is no such thing as “color-blind”. Justice must look into every corner of the world, must see every aspect of a situation. And in order to move forward, we must learn to see our differences, to learn to live with them.

A white member of a school board who had voted against a plan whose purpose was to further re-segregation had this to say about her experience after the vote: “It was totally orchestrated. It was awful, I felt powerless,” Powell said recently. “I remember sitting in church after one of the votes. It was a Wednesday-night supper and no one would sit with me, because I voted with the black members. It made me realize where people stood.”

From the article: “Desegregation had been wrenching and complicated, but in Tuscaloosa and across the country, it achieved undeniable results. During the 1970s and ’80s, the achievement gap between black and white 13-year-olds was cut roughly in half nationwide. Some scholars argue that desegregation had a negligible effect on overall academic achievement. But the overwhelming body of research shows that once black children were given access to advanced courses, well-trained teachers, and all the other resources that tend to follow white, middle-income children, they began to catch up.”

And: “Notably, Rucker also found that black progress did not come at the expense of white Americans—white students in integrated schools did just as well academically as those in segregated schools. Other studies have found that attending integrated schools made white students more likely to later live in integrated neighborhoods and send their own children to racially diverse schools.” (bolds mine)

Exclusion and deliberate blindness are wrong. Diversity in schools generated by their racial integration is a lifelong gift. It is one thing that can help heal the nation. It will benefit everyone. But most importantly, it is right, it is just, and it is necessary.

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