Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thoughts on Sean Bell--We're Not Innocent, Either

This is a little off-topic for the blog, but as a former Bronx schoolteacher, and a New Yorker, and a feminist, I had to comment, briefly.

Above all, I blame the Sean Bell killing on a bunch of trigger-happy, racist cops, and a horribly racist judge, and unfair laws, and a fascist police state, and a white supremacist society.

But I also can't deflect blame from most Americans--yep, even us well-meaning bourgeois liberals, and our presidential candidates--for not calling any attention to our ghettos, our inner-cities, our youth of color, except when somebody gets shot. It's a huge injustice, but it builds off of smaller injustices that happen every day, injustices that we let slide.

And I ask these questions of those who are comfortable in our skins, literally:

*Would we be willing to see our suburban and prep schools lose fancy trimmings in order to have true educational parity? Really?

*Would we be willing to stop blaming violence on hip=hop and confront the deep, deep history of violence our country was built on? I'm talking about slavery and genocide, and how those violences, and the violence of our foreign policy and our leaders, has just as much if not more effect than a video which 99% of kids are smart enough to understand is just art?

*Would we ever be willing to accept the premise that drunken white fratboys at strip clubs engaging in violence-tinged braggadaccio deserve be shot because their behavior was uncouth? Or it's unfortunate that they were shot but look at what they were doing!

*If it's okay for cops to shoot young people of color, whom will it be okay for them to shoot next?

I include myself in this challenge.

The Sean Bells of this city are brought into a world that has no place for them but prison or death. I will never forget the looks on the faces of the young men in my class--even the ones who were always trying to convince me they were "hard"--when I said they were "nice" or "good" kids. Over and over again, those two words brought the most genuine smiles, the most unaffected reaction, I saw throughout those long months. To be told they were good when society tells them they are bad, bad, all the time, was the most positive thing they could hear. I'm not trying to paint myself as some sort of crusading white saint. I fled my teaching post because I felt that the authoritarian-ness required to be effective would crush my soul, but also because it was too depressing.

I'm just saying what I learned from those small interactions profoundly touched me. Sean Bell lived in a society where people did not accept that he could be "good" because of the color of his skin and where he was born. And now he's dead, and he's still being demonized.

How much of our own comfortable lives will we be willing to change to make sure this doesn't happen again? Because we're going to have to tip our society upside down to really change things. No more band-aids.

Here's some more Bruce, cause he's always right for the occasion.

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