Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Ferguson

Living where I do, here at the edge of the South / edge of the Midwest / sort of almost Texas, in what is indisputably a Red State, but nonetheless very close to a college town, though also a working class town, it's -- how do I phrase this? -- an odd experience.

Very nearly the first thing that happened after I moved here, back in 2004, was Arkansas voters passing an amendment against LGBT marriage being recognized in the state.  I remember my shock at how vehement my students -- my little baby freshmen -- were on the topic.  I remember saying in my freshmen class that there was nothing wrong with being gay, and having the class rise up in shouting and mocking fury to rebuke me.

"Yes, there is!"

"Oh, yes, there is!"  

The smug glee in their eyes as they realized they were all united against me.

Just ten years ago.

Now some of my students* -- as I'm discovering more from Facebook than from anything any of them are saying in class -- are united in their conviction that Mike Brown is a thug, that he deserved to be shot by Darren Wilson, that the black people who are protesting are looters, criminals, and probably need to get jobs.

This depresses me as much as my students back in 2004, I have to say.

Here's hoping that in 2024 I can look back on this post, as I look back on my students of 2004, and think about how much the world has changed.

*By no means all of my students.  This is a big difference from 2004, when 75% of Arkansas voted for that stupid, evil, vile amendment.  I'd say only 30 or 40% of my students, if that, are Wilson supporters.  


Anonymous said...

We have more out students this year than ever before. Something like 5 years ago, people would say nasty things when a guy randomly had a pink notebook or pen or was wearing a metro-sexual shirt.

I am so glad I am not on Facebook. Though I kind of wish I were teaching my elective this semester instead of stats because current events are sadly emphasizing some of the themes in that class. (Last year we came to the conclusion, after a student presentation on bias in the music industry, that Kanye was right and Beyonce really was robbed.)

Anonymous said...

And I realize that saying I'm glad I'm not on facebook comes right after reading and agreeing with this post:

I am a bit of a hypocrite. (And yes, if it's hard for me to deal with knowing people are racist, imagine how much more difficult it would be if I were say, black.)

delagar said...

That post. Yeah.

That's what I'm dealing with. I have all these freshmen students in my comp classes, and I *am* on FB, because our useless school got rid of the easy way I had of connecting with them -- via our school email system -- so that now the easiest way of connecting to them is via FB.

This means that I am FB friends with most of my students. This means that over the past week I have gotten to discover that these sweet little freshmen, who I had been meeting one on one in conference, and thinking were such nice kids, are -- at least a third of them, ignorant racist.

Or at least ignorant.

It's so demoralizing.

Bardiac said...

I look at the strides the country's made in terms of LGBTQ issues, and it seems like some people have changed their minds, and even if they're uncomfortable, they've realized that they know folks who are GLBTQ and don't hate or fear them, so they're accepting marriage, say.

But we don't seem to have made anything like those strides in anti-racism.

I had the most uncomfortable discussions of Ferguson today. I tried, but holy cow, I'm just not doing well at bringing the discussion to the classroom fruitfully.

delagar said...

I think that's the sad truth.

We went from being a country that was, what, 90% against gay marriage in the 80s to being something like 70% for it now -- a massive change in less than a generation.

Yet despite interracial marriage being legal since 1970, despite the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, I still have -- and you still have, I imagine -- stone racists in my classroom, people who really aren't ashamed of what they say.

I mean, some *are* ashamed to admit their racism, and try to pretend it's not racism, to cover it with some coded speech or the other: as for instance this woman in one class who said, "Those blacks up there in Kansas City, they aren't like *our* blacks! You don't know! I lived up there! They're dangerous, THOSE blacks!"

So you know, SHE wasn't racist. She was fine with GOOD blacks. (Eye-roll.)

But, on the other hand, a good 10-20 percent of my students ARE just openly racist, and see nothing wrong with being that way.

I don't know. I hope the world is going to change. But this morning I am not that optimistic.