“If Frederick…”

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 1:15 am

These two words started an interesting journey for Gwinnett County, Georgia parents and children. As one parent acknowledged, the word questions demonstrated that “racists” still exist. Gwinnett County schools spokesperson Sloan Roach stated that “the teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity…We understand that there are concerns about these questions, and we agree that these questions were not appropriate.” Teaching about race requires teaching about a subject that we, all of us, have yet to properly situate.

Race may make some of us uncomfortable, some of us may think we dwell on the topic too much, some of us may be apathetic toward race, and still, race, better yet racism, is implied or outright demonstrated almost daily. That being the case, how do we introduce notions of healing and inclusiveness without evoking the bad spirits of old? I think Mississippi may use Gwinnett County as a “what not to do” guide. In 2006 Mississippi passed a law that mandates every history course from K-12 to teach civil rights history year-round. William Winter Institute’s Director Dr. Susan Glisson acknowledged that students should learn more than the “‘savior narrative” of “Rosa (Parks) sat down, Martin stood up and now everyone is free.'”

Specifically, Glisson says the 2006 law focuses on the average citizen who used grassroots organizing to challenge the old status quo, the old guard, the old Mississippi. Vestiges of the old may still exist, but as former Governor William Winter noted at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast at Mississippi State University, civil rights pioneers like a Medgar Evers helped to release all of us from a cultural and social prison–segregation. When speaking to Myrlie Evers, Governor Winter recalled “I said to her, ‘We white folks owe as much to your husband as black folks do. He freed us…We were all prisoners of the system. We were not able to move freely or speak freely or do a lot of things we’d like to have done, because of an oppressive society and fanatical segregation.”

For Mississippi, when we see the future, what does it look like? Where are its children? Can we do more than “just get along,” as Rodney King famously called for, to actually getting along through healing, dialogues, and forgiveness?


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