Last night, Robin Kelley gave an enlightening talk at Scripps College on Mike Brown’s body and a condensed history of black bodies. The Q&A, however, ended with a terrifyingly ignorant question (or, rather, assertion) about statistics on black men being violent (suggesting it’s their fault they’re in prisons).

After the initial shock and disgust, I found myself inspired by Kelley’s rational response.  While we may pride ourselves on being a diverse consortium with open minds, I know that the ignorance that manifested in this audience member’s question is absolutely present on our campuses. Therefore, I think it is just as important to learn how to compassionately, calmly, and gracefully interact with these kinds of questions/assertions (as Kelley did) as it is to educate ourselves. There isn’t much room for growth of the Black Lives Matter movement if those who know the truth behind the statistics are not able to enlighten those who are stuck on the numbers themselves.

This morning, I came across a video on a black man getting arrested for standing on a corner with a golf club. Fortunately, the cop was later fired:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/seattle-arrested-black-man-carrying-golf-club-fired-article-1.2362131?utm_content=bufferb5779&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Similar to the audience member who ended the Q&A last night, it is so easy to reprimand the racist cop. But perhaps it is worthwhile to engage with the racist cops and ignorant citizens of our world (again, as Kelley so beautifully did) in order to move forward.

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3 responses »

  1. sjendoubi17 says:

    Responding to individuals with a calm and grounded tone is something I acknowledge is both very difficult and critical in truly making a change. I have been reflecting on that lately due to certain interactions I’ve had with very ignorant individuals. I learned about “calling people in, versus calling people out,” in this article (http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/guide-to-calling-in/) which delineates the importance of educating people rather than shaming them for their comments. I recommend everyone read the article and see whether or not this is something they can apply to their lives.

  2. doriebailey says:

    I totally agree that the “calling people in” strategy is very important, especially in such an environment as the Claremont Colleges, which is perceived as being quite liberally and socially-aware. However, as many, many incidents on campus suggest (including students, faculty, property damage and defacement, etc.), it is painfully clear that there is still a lot more work to be done. The educating of the ignorant and unaware rather than simply addressing them with dismissal or ridicule is particularly important if any change and progress is to be made. It is very easy to call someone out for being wrong or misinformed, but it is much, much harder to show them how and why they are wrong, and make them understand as much as well. I always admire people that can remain level-headed and articulate when explaining to someone why their opinion or behavior is hurtful or prejudiced, and have even more respect for those that actually change their ways and understanding after being called out, which is also not an easy thing to do.

  3. cassidy says:

    Yes! To respond to all of you, I think this is a HUGE issue in liberal spaces like college campuses across all dialogues and debates. Often I see student leaders on campus dismiss those who are ignorant of their social cause (but who want to learn!) rather than discuss their mission openly with them. I am impressed by the community’s commitment to open spaces for dialogue, but I think that sometimes those spaces fall short in their assumption that everyone is on the same page and that if they’re not, they are against the cause altogether. I do understand though how easily it is to respond in anger to offensive, prejudiced, and just completely ignorant comments. I am not talking so much about those remarks as I am about people who want to learn more about issues but don’t know how to ask without others assuming they are coming from a place of bad intent.

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