(If you click on the graph then it will enlarge and is easier to read)
When I saw these numbers my heart sank, tears welled in my eyes, and I felt sick. I wanted to go home and barricade myself from their significance. I wished I hadn’t looked because they only confirmed what I already suspected deep inside.
There are so many problems with race in America. The division between Black and White suggests two very different realities. How you would answer any of these questions is to miss the point.
There are a lot of Americans that only know one reality– the reality of the dominant discourse. There is little doubt that America still operates on WASP values (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). When the numbers show that white folks don’t see the same things that black folks do it is because there are two different truths at play.
Some of us in the white community have been taught that racism is over, that life is unicorns and rainbows. Some of us have lived out an easy life full of plenty of easy days, sheltered from real problems. No doubt my family has worked hard to battle poverty, but they never had to battle race and poverty simultaneously. Once out of poverty they worked hard to shelter me. My childhood was very good, better than most, but when an alternate reality started to set in so did the heartbreak.
I have rarely lost sight of how fortunate my life has been, and I am grateful every day for all the things I have that so many Americans do not. Because my reality has been what many would call fortunate, I am very interested in the truth of others that are not part of the historically dominant culture.
The disconnect between these numbers shows that we have a lot of work to do. Arguing and pointing fingers won’t get us closer to respect, understanding, or love. I believe there is one thing that we all need to do: Listen. Listen to each other. Listen to the stories. Listen to someone else’s truth. When we really listen to each other then we can learn something new from a different perspective. It is crucial to suspend judgment and assumptions temporarily to develop understanding of another perspective or thought.
Assumptions are dangerous. By making assumptions about students my early career as a teacher was full of frustration and disappointment. There are still frustrating and disappointing days, but when I take the time to really listen to them or their families then often times together we are able to be more productive and successful.
We must work together. America is hurting.