I am pleased that Reverend F. Graham is speaking at the RNC. The National Prayer Breakfast may be the last time President Trump was exposed to a Christian teaching. (The June 01 posing with a Bible does not count). Reverend Graham has an opportunity to offer the President a lesson from Christianity. However, since he rebuffed Arthur Brooks’ fine lesson from Matthew on loving our enemies, I suggest that Reverend Graham use Exodus 20: 3-17 which is the core of Christianity: The Ten Commandments. Those few verses offer Rev. Graham ample words to share with President Trump about loving, sharing, forgiving, and more. This is Reverend Graham’s chance to educate a man who held aloft a sacred text before a church for a stunt, not a belief.
When King David learns that he has impregnated Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his best warriors who is away fighting battles, he tries various schemes to cover his adultery. He orders Uriah home and tells him to visit Bathsheba in hopes that he will have sex with her. When the loyal Uriah refuses (as was the custom for soldiers then), King David gets him drunk hoping that he will visit his wife and have intercourse with her. Again, Uriah does not go to her. Finally, King David orders his field commander Joab to place Uriah “in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die.” (KJV) Upon hearing of Uriah’s death, King David sends a letter to Joab in which he writes: “Let this thing seem not evil in your eyes, for the sword devours sometimes one way and sometimes another” (Alter translation). The king’s words, “Let this thing seem not evil in your eyes” are empty ones for a brave commander who became part of a horrible crime committed to cover another.
King David’s words should be held close to our hearts because they remind us how easy it is to lie or rationalize to others and ourselves. King David uses Joab to murder an honest man, then tells him that he should not allow the evil surrounding Uriah’s murder “seem” evil. After all, King David tells his loyal commander, the sword devours both ways. He is telling his commander that the murder committed is not evil, and he uses a strongly passive verb to make that statement. King David is using “alternative facts” that softly lie and distort. King David is giving Joab permission that he does not possess because he cannot make the deed anything in the mind and heart of Joab. But he tries, and because we never hear from Joab about Uriah’s death, we do not know how he seemed this evil not to be evil.
In our modern world of “fake news” and cheap chants, we need to heed the words of King David and hear them as what they are: A lie and a lie that cannot undo what has been done.
We need to be vigilant and keen and seekers of honesty. “Fake news” is a slogan without substance, and if we follow that chain of belief, we will be swept away like Joab. A victim of a despot who uses us for his glorification.
In May 1842 Graham’s Magazine published a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story, The Masque of the Red Death, tells of Prince Prospero’s attempt to avoid a dangerous plague know as the Red Death. He hides in his abbey and invites friends to celebrate his success at avoiding the horrible death.
In 2020 many Americas are acting like Prince Prospero: We build bubbles for professional and college athletes; we conduct youth wrestling tournaments for close to 2,500 youngsters; we open colleges and schools with a few “safeguards”; parents move their aspiring football playing children to states that are conducting fall season as usual; college coaches decree that their football players are safest at their college; and more.
Poe’s brief story is a tale of horror. Its horror has a lesson for America in 2020. Read the attached story and decide: Can we hide or run from the COID-19 pandemic or do we need to combat it in a unified manner in order to gain some semblance of control?
The Masque of the Red Death
By Edgar Allan Poe
The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death”.
It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. These were seven—an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different, as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example in blue—and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange—the fifth with white—the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet—a deep blood colour. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to harken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused revery or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.
But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colours and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.
He had directed, in great part, the movable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fête; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm—much of what has been since seen in “Hernani”. There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these—the dreams—writhed in and about taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away—they have endured but an instant—and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-coloured panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulged in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.
But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumour of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise—then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.
In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade licence of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood—and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.
When the eyes of the Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which, with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.
“Who dares,”—he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him—”who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him—that we may know whom we have to hang, at sunrise, from the battlements!”
It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly, for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.
It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince’s person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple—through the purple to the green—through the green to the orange—through this again to the white—and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry—and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
My drop, measured by inches, was short. I had fallen only about eighteen inches, so that was good. The bad was that I was sitting on the wet pavement of the parking lot of my building as heavy drops of rain pelted everything in the dark, late night. I could not see my wheelchair because my sloppy transfer, instead of landing me in the seat, had pushed it backwards and it now rested somewhere behind me. The heavy, thick rain continued to drop in a steady rhythm as I tried to think of a plan: Tired from a long day and too much alcohol, I sat on the wet pavement that now carried a steady flow of water, drop after drop of rain adding to my self-imposed misery. I tried to push the muddle from my brain and think of a way to regain my position in the driver’s seat, but all I managed was to become more soaked from my head to my legs.
It was then that I saw him crossing the street. He approached me but no drop of rain touched him or his gleaming white shirt. He grew closer, and I noticed the contrast of his dark, brown hands with the bright, white cuffs of his shirt. It was then that I remembered him from Douglas Airport in Charlotte and how he had pushed me and my heavy bag up a carpeted ramp when I was having trouble navigating in a crowd. Now walking past me in the dark lot, he retrieved my wheelchair and placed it behind me. Those same brown hands now lifted me onto my soaked wheelchair seat. As I was putting my feet on the footrest of my wheelchair, I heard him say in the same voice from Charlotte, “You should take better care of yourself.” Then he was gone like a fallen drop of rain.
In Charlotte my heavy bag was about to drop from my lap as I tried to navigate a carpeted ramp in a rushing push of travelers. In the wet parking lot, my drop was again due to my excess and poor planning: Too much stuff in a too big bag, too much work, too much alcohol. But he came. Twice he rescued me from self-imposed trouble.
He has not appeared since. Perhaps because I have heeded his words to take better care of myself or whatever, I have not seen him, but I know he is present, ready to save me from my next drop.
The vast darkness appeared in the eastern sky in early afternoon. The weather people had been forecasting for days the hurricane Isaias, and we watched for its outer bands of rain; in fact, we even eagerly wished for the much-needed rain. So this week when the darkness arrived, my wife and I gathered on the screened porch to watch its arrival. We were not disappointed, and the rain brought relief to the heat and humidity and dry plants. We listened to the rain hitting leaves and watched the worst of the storm move south around us.
When calm returned to our area, I continued to sit on the porch to watch our small, back garden. All matter of animals came out after the rain, and I enjoyed the presence of cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, Carolina wrens, brown thrashers, and more. The cooled air gave comfort to the watching of all the activity. One of the dogwood trees in the garden has several dead branches that we keep because they provide food for the smaller birds like the chickadees. It was on one of those branches that I noticed a small nodule, and I wondered what it could be. I kept examining it and soon realized that it was a small, resting bird. Because it was such a minuscule shape against the still dusty sky, I could not identify it, but I did notice a sharp beak and body not larger than my thumb. I concluded it to be a young brown-headed nuthatch. I watched. It rested.
Out time together lasted for several minutes, and I enjoyed the odd experience of seeing a bird so still. Birds in our garden, like in all places, are always on the move, but at a few times I had seen them resting. I have watched doves lay on the ground with wings spread, their way of cooling off. Brown thrashers have rested on the fence rail with their beaks open to gain some relief from the heat. I had seen birds resting on a limb or fence rail between splashes of flight. But seldom had I seen a bird at rest this long. Right there, the young nuthatch resting on the dead limb of our dogwood tree, until the well-rested hummingbird zoomed away.
I had been wrong about the bird’s identity, but that was okay because the storm moved on, the lower temperature it brought to our garden gave welcome relief, and I had received a small gift. That was enough I realized as I went into the house for supper.
“Indian Country.” Said twice in a press conference on July 28, 2020 by the President of the United States. He used the phrase to explain that for the first time aid was going to Indigenous Peoples of America to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Twice.
What did he mean? To whom did he reference? Here in North Carolina we have the Lumbees, the Cherokees, and more Indigenous Americans. Did he mean that all of these citizens would receive aid to fight this pandemic?
Or was he envisioning another “Indian Country” like that of Teddy Roosevelt where the buffalo was stalked by hunters clad only in loin-clothes, riding on magnificent mounts. I wager that he was not seeing the hovels without running water or electricity, but only his vision of “Indian Country.”
During the weekend when Representative John Lewis was being honored in his home state of Alabama, a thirty-year-old state representative who represents a district northwest of Montgomery chose to honor another native of Alabama.
According to his Facebook post, Will Dismukes gave the opening invocation for the annual celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s birthday. His post showed him standing behind the lectern surrounded by several Confederate flags at a location named Fort Dixie. He writes on his post, “Always a great time and some sure enough good eating.”
Dismukes and all the other celebrators at Fort Dixie, someone’s private property near Selma, are free to observe the birthday of a Confederate officer, a slave owner, and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Kian. They are free to hang all the Confederate flags they want and to continue this annual event with all the “good eating” present at such occasions.
It does not surprise me that some areas of America still celebrate such men as Forrest. What shocks me is that a politician so young as Dismukes would attend, participate, and share his role on Facebook, then he expresses surprise that some readers react negatively to his post. A graduate of Faulkner University and the pastor of his Baptist church, Dismukes saw nothing wrong in honoring Forrest but not Lewis.
Senator Tom Cotton has spent a year trying to stop the use of the 1619 curriculum in public schools. He views the curriculum as biased concerning racism is America. Senator Cotton firmly believes that America is not a racist country and that slavery was “a necessary evil” that helped build our country.
While reading various newspaper accounts of Senator Cotton’s battle against the 1619 curriculum and of Dismukes’ celebration of a racist traitor to America, I kept wondering how did these men manage to graduate college and law school without gaining knowledge of slavery and its horrific effect on America? As an educator who required students to read and discuss and write about books by Richard Wright, Earnest Gaines, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor, to name a few, I am saddened that these men, elected leaders, have such a limited understanding of that “peculiar institution.” I wonder what they understand about the Jim Crow era and how Dr. King, Jr. used non-violence for change.
Dismukes is only thirty. I had believed that we had done a better job of educating our young people. Yet, he chooses to honor a bigot, not a hero. He chooses to go to a place named Fort Dixie, which is ironically near Selma, where Mr. Lewis helped change our country. Does his choice to travel to Fort Dixie and not Troy, Alabama demonstrate his failure to learn our history or does it speak to our failure to educate him?
Senator Cotton writes falsehoods and pushes misinformation about the practice of human chattel. I wonder what he has read about slavery. Has he considered reading Tocqueville’s examination of slavery. If his blind loyalty to Southern heritage prevents him from reading an account by a non-American, I highly recommend Hodding Carter’s Southern Legacy, which examines the South, but does not glorify it.
My take of all this is that we have a long way to go in educating our citizens concerning slavery, the Traitor’s War, Jim Crow, and more. But because of the influence of COVID-19 on our educational system, we have the opportunity to change our educational systems. The pandemic has given us a chance. Let’s take advantage of it by teaching the true history of our country.
Think of the word lost or the phrase taken away. Both the word and the phrase imply and even suggest that whatever has been lost or taken away belonged to the speaker. The thing lost or taken away is spoken of as a possession, so the removal of it is an unjust act, making the speaker a victim.
I hear and read this sentiment often today. Athletes and viewers of them are the ones to most often use the word or phrase. For instance, a high school football player in a town near me can be heard saying, “We’ve lost our senior year. It’s been taken away from us.” Last spring graduating seniors and even adults would lament how those seniors had lost their graduation, prom, and beach week.
The language used is full of pity seeking and like all pity, it is a wrongful, self-serving emotion. None of these young people and their supporting adults had ownership of a sport season. Just because they played baseball or lacrosse does not give them ownership. They, like the graduates, coaches, parents, and more are participants, not owners. A season cannot be owned. A season is just that, a time on the calendar, and it is not even capitalized to give it importance because it will come, then fade into the next one. The glory of cross-country fades into wrestling which folds into track and field. One after the other. They cannot be owned anymore than air. But the language of some of our put-out children, helicopter parents, coaches, and teachers attempts to gain support by presenting themselves as victims of an unjust deed meant to harm them.
The pandemic which has caused such distribution across the world is much more consequential than a “lost” sports season. Yet, some colleges and high schools in North Carolina are conducting workouts for football as if all the death and misery and danger is not present in a high rate of our population. The NBA has invented a “bubble” so it can make money while viewers watch grown men throw and shoot a ball. The NFL will somehow have a season, and baseball is happening. All of this way of seeing justified satisfaction for our lives seeps down to colleges and high schools. We have a right, we seem to be saying, even in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic.
To be an athlete in or viewer of any sport is to be a participant. Being a participant requires that you owe the sport, it does not owe you anything. You choose to be in it. So, stop whining about losing something that was never yours or of something that you did not own being taken away. The pandemic happened to you, and it happened to the world.
Put on your big person pants and do something to help.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are struggling to arrive at a comprehensive plan on how to educate students, from P-K thru college/university. The most thought of plan, distance learning or MOOC, works only when all students have reliable access to the Internet, and for many students in public education, poor or non-existent internet is a fact of life. However, we may not need to “reinvent the wheel.”
Sunrise Semester, a collaborative effort between CBS and NYU, began in 1957. Each morning at 6:30 am a course was offered by an NYU professor. Two courses were offered on alternating days (M-W-F and T-T-S), and Dr. Floyd Zulli, Jr. taught the first course: Comparative Literature 10: from Stendhal to Hemingway. Courses in philosophy, math, science, and more were offered, and until the program ended in 1982 it proved a huge success. According to NYU’s website, 177 students paid $25 per credit hour in the first year to take the first course by television and over 120,000 just watched the lectures for no credit. NYU estimated that the series was seen by nearly two million viewers at its height. In 1962 Mrs. Cora Gay Carr earned her Bachelor of Science of Arts degree from NYU. She had earned 54 of the 128 credits necessary for her degree through Sunrise Semester.
As we debate how we can manage education during the pandemic, distant learning seems to be a viable alternative. But, as mentioned earlier, Internet access is an issue, especially for the P-K thru 12th grade students. Computers may be absent from homes, especially the homes of the less wealthy. But all homes and dormitories have televisions. They are everywhere, so could we not explore television as a substitute for the Internet in order to educate our students?
CBS and NYU managed to work together to bring education into the homes of ordinary citizens. The essayist Phillip Lopate writes how his parents, “lowly textile clerks with no more than high school diplomas”, set their alarm early to hear Dr. Zulli’s course on Stendhal in their Brooklyn ghetto, not for credit, but “for old-fashioned enlightenment.” Surely, with all our television channels and resources, we can find a way to use some of that resource for education.
Any school has what I call, “the culture of the hallways.” This is the behavior of students with each other in places and times that an authority figure is not present. All schools have such places: bathrooms, gyms, cafeterias and more. In such “student controlled” areas, a student may present differently than when in the presence of an adult. It is here that rude, mean, ugly, prejudiced, and spiteful behavior happens. All schools have a culture of the hallways.
As an administrator, teacher, and coach in independent and Catholic schools for forty years, I read with interest the articles concerning the recent “Black at (name the school) posts on Instagram. Not having an Instagram account prohibits me from reading various accounts, but I honestly do not want to read any anonymous report of racism or any ism in such schools. One article about a graduate’s experience in an independent school in Annapolis, MD was helpful because in “outing” the head of school, (who I know) the student’s name was published. That student owned his/her story.
I honor a present student or employees’ anonymity in offering a personal experience that is racist, classicist, or unjust in several other ways. That person cannot be assured that retribution will not happen because retribution is a sad reality of all schools. The power structure of schools places the student or employee below a school board member, a principal, a coach, and students are last and at the mercy of any mean-spirited person. For these Instagram posts, I recommend anonymity.
My career in education covered the years 1968-2008. I began teaching during the last efforts to thwart the Brown vs. Board Supreme Court Decision to integrate public schools and ended it working to help make independent schools more reflective of society, to create student bodies and faculties that were not all white and wealthy. With the help of programs such as NCBI and students, teachers, and administrators, I experienced the joy of being a part in creating a more diverse, welcoming, and safe environment in independent schools in and around Washington, DC. Many workshops, discussions, assemblies with speakers such as Peggy McIntosh and Lorene Cary, and “town meetings” were held to help those school communities confront the challenges of race, gender, class, sexuality, and more, but some of the current issues present today did not exist in these years. While the work I shared with others in each school was demanding and difficult and even frightening at times, it was rewarding. We knew that not all persons in our communities would be changed, but we knew we would make some change for the better.
Because of my experience, in which I made mistakes, I am bothered by graduates and past employees not identifying themselves. For me, I want to know the circumstances surrounding any mis-spoken words and to whom I may have said them. For instance, one Instagram post I read reported the name of a teacher I knew and had even hired. The unnamed poster told how his friend had chosen not to dress in a costume for Halloween during the 7th grade, but just wore sweatpants and a hoodie. He says that the named teacher asked his friend, “Are you dressed up as Trevor Martin?” Wow. Hard stuff, but the poster was a long past student who renamed anonymous. The teacher, as far as I know, is retired. However, I think that she, or any teacher “outed” would be appreciative of some more details surrounding their offensive words.
I have some recommendations for any person who chooses to post on Black at (name the school), which is helpful for such schools. Tell your story or get your friend to tell his/hers and name the name(s) of the offending person. Provide as much detail surrounding the event as possible. In this way, you will help the named teacher/coach/administrator recall the event, and this may help them to better understand. That is their duty, but when you name the name, name yours as well. In that way, your story will have more credibility. Being direct with each other in a civil way is the best avenue to changing people and their institutions. Anonymous remarks may cause folks to become defensive, and that attitude was not helpful before or now. Own your story and help change happen.