Teachers all over the country are preparing to talk about Dr. King with their students. How many of us are asking ourselves if we are about to fall into the trap of telling a "single story"?
In her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie describes what often happens when Westerners talk about Africa — we tell the story of poverty and extreme suffering. In doing so, we miss critical understandings of the place and people, and we step into the minefield of continuing stereotypes and age-old misconceptions. Adichie recommends that we, in the words of another Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, commit to telling a “balance of stories.” She proposes that it is only through this balanced telling that we will begin to truly appreciate the complexity, humanity, and depth of the lived experience on the continent.
My family tells me that for several days after November 8th, I curled up on the couch and cried inconsolably. I barely remember that week, as I was frozen with terror for my family and other loved ones. When I told my children what had happened, my 11-year-old, an immigrant and Latinx child, asked if she should leave the country and go “home”.
Check out this archived EmbraceRace Community Conversation with leaders of IntergrateNYC4Me. In New York City, home to among the most segregated schools in the country, IntegrateNYC4Me, this student-led effort, is pushing back hard against educational segregation and the inequities it represents in their city and across the country. Find out how, why, and what difference its made so far – both to the cause and to the student leaders themselves.
EmbraceRace's Andrew and Melissa facilitate a community conversation with IntegrateNYC4Me co-founder Sarah Camiscoli and with student leaders Matt Diaz and Hebh Jamal. An edited transcript and more resources follow.
Update: This booklist has been updated and added to since its initial publication.
Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression.
“Don’t worry, pretty lady. I’ll make sure to use a good, strong lock to keep the niggers out.”
He smiled. I blinked. Fifteen years ago, I was moving into my third-floor condo in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. I’d hired a neighborhood locksmith to re-key the locks. The place was the size of a postage stamp but it was all mine and it had an extraordinary view. Below me was a lush courtyard where weddings took place. If I stood on my tiptoes, carefully leaned over the wooden dish rack with mismatched dishes and looked out my tiny kitchen window, I could see the Mississippi River.
As the locksmith worked in the open doorway, the trilling chords of the calliope from a steamboat clung to the cold river air and crossed the threshold, drifting inside, chilling the room.
A mom recounts the experience of counter-protesting
Patty Nourse Culbertson, who was in Charlottesville as a nonviolent resistor to Unite The Right, originally wrote this piece as a FaceBook comment. She says she came across a "wonderful post that Dan Rather wrote [on August 15, 2017]” about the counter protest in Charlottesville and saw many commenters to that post had only criticism for Charlottesville. She posted her response to the critics on her FB page and it went far and got to us. Her post is reprinted here with minor edits and format changes.
On June 30th, EmbraceRace posted an article by a gay black man entitled “Why I’m Giving Up on ‘Allies’.” The author, Ernest Allen, writes this: “What I have realized is that too many allies conduct themselves as service providers: They show up only when there’s an immediate need, they require me to explain the problem again and again, and they may or may not actually fix anything. In other words, allies are more trouble than they’re worth.”
This piece, submitted anonymously, was prompted by Allen’s reflections.
Recently, I joined more than 1,000 people in Park Slope, Brooklyn at a community meeting convened to resist Trump’s agenda. One of the speakers was Hebh Jamal, a 17-year-old Muslim student who led a citywide student walkout to protest the travel ban and Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
She’s also a leader in the movement to desegregate New York City schools, among the most segregated in the country.
She looked out at the nearly all-white, upper-income crowd — which included many parents — and asked us to recognize ourselves and our children as beneficiaries of a rigged educational system. While this is a known and somewhat lamented fact in our liberal community, the silent room got a little more silent as we contemplated ourselves as both new resisters and longtime collaborators.
A few weeks ago, I placed a yellow, intersectional Black Lives Matter sign created by Matice M. Moore, a Black artist and activist located in Arizona, in a front window of our house in Atlanta, Georgia. I wish I could say the decision between me and my husband to take this action was an easy one.
In my ideal world, our discussion might have sounded like:
Me: “Should we get a Black Lives Matter sign for our house?”
Husband: “Absolutely! Black Lives Matter!”
We high-five and make the purchase.
How to involve kids in direct activism
When my son was four he saw me at the kitchen table with giant markers and poster board. He knew what that meant, and his interest was piqued. “Are we going to a rally, or a vigil?” He asked. I asked him what he thought the difference was and he responded; “I don’t know. They feel different.”
At four he already knew what activism felt like and, though he didn’t have all the words to describe his experiences, he knew how to ask the right questions. At 41 I am in much the same place.