Words by Kokayi Nosakhere
On Tuesday, September 24, 2019 the general public in Southern Oregon was made aware of a racial incident which occurred in White City via (social media) the Facebook group, Ashland Peeps
Inside the White Mountain Middle School, a white child affectionately called a Black child by a racial slur. “What’s up my ni–r?” A Latinx student verbally defended the Black student. All three, apparently, were subject to discipline.
When the Black student told his side of the story to school officials, the white male school disciplinarian reinforced the American racial hierarchy of being by saying, “It’s okay, the word is used in rap songs.” Then, the disciplinarian suspended the Latinx student for his verbal defense.
BREATHE – take note of your body and what is arising at this moment. How is learning this incident happened landing inside of your body?
For most of us, we are socially programmed for this “kind” of incident to fall under the category of “overt racism.” We can see it. Or, better stated, we are taught we can see it. It is plain enough for a debate to not exist in our minds over whether or not this is a race-based incident. It breaks through the culture of individualism.
This is a learning moment for the entire school – if this moment is transmuted from pain/suffering into an act of healing.
BREATHE – Are you finding yourself brave enough to stay in your body or are you resisting the need to enter your head and intellectualize what you are feeling – instead of feeling it?
AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL
If anger is arising – why? What are you specifically angry about?
Is it because the young white student is innocent in your mind, and his/her display of overt racism is hitting too close to home? Is it easier to think about racism when it is happening in Chicago or Los Angeles or New York? When racism is happening close to your home what do you think your anger is attempting to defend you from? Is it your personal sense of racial innocence?
Do you find yourself seeking an intellectual argument to dismiss the feelings which are arising?
Are you constructing an argument in your head?
This is Oregon. It has a history of racism.
The school will know what to do and how to handle this situation.
Do you find the situation setting up a fight in your mind?
The disciplinarian needs to be educated. If they refuse the education, they need to be fired.
The Black family will sue – or should sue. Taking the money out of the hands of racists is the only way they will learn.
Is this incident how you are learning about your racism?
Would you want someone to punish you if you found out you were racist, when all your life you were taught you were not racist – or you did not understand what racism REALLY is?
Do you find yourself bewildered and frustrated that racism remains in Southern Oregon despite your full knowledge that you, yourself, do not do anything you imagine is racist?
If you were the family of the young white student who learned they were white through this incident, and that race has an impact upon your life, how would you like to be held?
Would you want someone to sit with you – hold space – and cry with you? Would you enter fear, flight and freeze as you tried to make meaning about what was happening to you? Would you be worried about ALL of White City judging you? Would you be worried about being labeled “racist” and not given a way to redeem yourself? Would you be scared this incident could blow up into a national story? Do you think you need a lawyer to protect yourself? Would you be worried about having to leave White City due to the pressure?
Would you be scared for the safety of your child? Would you internalize the Black family’s reaction as extreme? Would you feel that you lacked any power in the situation?
STUDENT BODY LEVEL
If you are a parent of a student in White Mountain Middle School, do you have the tools to talk to your children about racism and how racism affects white students?
Do you know how to handle racial stress? Would you be doing everything within your power to compartmentalize this situation and function your way through it?
If you are a fellow white student, do you have anyone to speak too about the new emotions which are arising within you? You are white. You cannot do what a Black person can do. Are you confused by this? Does it feel unfair? Does it feel like society is forcing your hand? Do you feel powerless in this new found sense of race?
If you are a political leader in White City, would you know the entire school needed guidance? Would you know how to provide that guidance? Would platitudes and reaffirmations about how White City doesn’t view itself as racist, and therefore should not be treated like it is a racist place to live,arise in your mind?
Would you have compassion for the Black student and the White student – yet not know what to do with those emotions? Would you have compassion for all of the white families associated with White Mountain Middle School and them all being affected by race in such a visceral way?
If you were the Black family, how would you want your white neighbors to respond?
It is easy to fall into American programming and go through the motions during such an incident as this. It takes much, much more skill to walk through an incident like this going beyond the programming into greater humanity.
Thank you for reading these few words. I am available for paid consulting ($75 per hour) and for building a community which works for everyone and not just those whom benefit from our programmed response.