When my friend Hasira Ashemu asked me if I could find space in the magazine to dedicate to issues that Black and Brown people face – I did not hesitate in saying yes.
I met Hasira a couple years back after I went to Ferguson to write about the Michael Brown case as well as show support. The Justice system is broken and it impacts POC even more severely.
I had been involved in several protests regarding the shootings of our black population by police – predominantly male. I was in Denver at one, and met three students, two male and one female-all 14 years of age, who had chosen to walk from their school in what was a Metro wide march. We decided to get a soda, and the five of us (my partner was there as well), were walking down the street to the convenience store. One of the boys asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since.
He asked; “How many of us here have been followed by police walking home from school?”.
I stopped in my tracks. Never. Nor had my boyfriend.
Both boys stated they had been followed home by police on more than one occasion.
When I went to Ferguson, I heard stories from mothers who told me that they taught their children to get home before dark, what to do if the police stop them, how to not get harassed or arrested or worse, shot.
These are all things I never had to teach my son.
When we talk about racism, we must be able to look past our own defenses and try and see how the world works for people of color. Jim Crow laws only ended 49 years ago. We have all heard the countless stories of POC having the police called on them for having a BBQ, going to Starbucks, checking out of an Airbnb, and on and on. The statistics on sentencing for POC compared to whites for the exact same crime are staggering.
However, this is only part of the conversation. Overt racism is easier to see-especially in others. It is the systematic racism and implicit bias that we, as white folk, have a much harder time seeing or addressing, especially in ourselves.
We all know Racism is evil and none of us want to be evil. Our defenses go up and denial kicks in. It is hard to look at how being white does come with a certain set of privileges – in a system that was built and designed for white people (primarily men).
As someone who supports the movement to end racism, I have also suffered from making judgements and assumptions, that after being pointed out made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Fortunately, the people in my life were willing to kindly, and with love, show me what I did not see. Once I got past my own feelings, I have come to realize that these assumptions will happen. Even the best intentioned of us, if we are white, grew up seeing the world through the eyes of white people. We are raised in white communities, we interact with predominantly white people, and we live in a system designed for white people. My job is to learn to be aware of these preconceived biases and relearn new ways of viewing the world. Can I try for one minute and see the world through the eyes of a Person of Color?
My job (if I care) is to learn how to undo what was taught for 500 years and learn new ways of seeing the world.
Hasira’s focus is on education justice. Throughout the nation (and yes even here in Colorado), children of color are punished more severely (15% to 51% is average), they are expelled or suspended at 3x the rate of white children and expectation bias can influence how a teacher interacts with the student.
Hasira or Soul as many call him, is co-Director of the non-profit Our Voices/Our Schools and discusses these topics and solutions on #SoulSchoolNetwork. Soul School Network provides a weekly vodcast, essays and commentary on what we can do to affect change.
We encourage readers to support the #SoulSchool Network by becoming a member. #SoulSchool Network provides the requisite information from a grassroots independent source to assist those who are interested in learning more about racial and education justice.
It is with great pleasure we reshare this content at Yellow Scene Magazine and with much hope that we can help teach new ways of seeing the world for us all.