It Is Not About Race; It Is

August 2, 2015

Shuttling in my car between the two small vegetable gardens I tend and weep over I caught the middle of a radio show (This American Life, or Radio Lab) on Oregon Public Radio. It was an African American woman telling the story of a school in Missouri that lost its accreditation and its largely black students could choose to stay or be bussed to another district thirty miles away. Part of the broadcast was a recording of a public meeting held by the parents of the receiving school (largely white). The rhetoric was thick, objections were unanimous; and when one parent rose to say that their vociferous objection to the program “was not about race” you suddenly knew it was. I remarked to myself that the recording quality was pretty good for the sixties when the woman talking gave the date of the meeting as some time in 2013. It just brought home how little progress we have made since ERA.

nikki

Nikki Giovanni

Last week I was also listening to OPB where someone was interviewing Nikki Giovanni, a writer and poet of whom I had never heard. I was so intrigued by her style and manner I went, of course, to Powell’s Books and sought her out. For $3 I bought a used copy of The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni. It is a collection of her prose work, including ‘Racism 101’. Yes despite her Mediterranean sounding name Nikki is African American, and her writing jolts me into a world of Black writers and activists barely known to me.

I have confessed to and written of my learned racism before, and my desire to be rid of it. Listening and reading I am left with the residual frustration that I don’t know what to do, and I really believe I am not alone.

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