Comment: Schools or retirement homes? | Opinion

As soon as it was announced, an outraged letter to the city council expressed concern over accusations of “white supremacy” and invoked the phantom boogeyman, “critical race theory.”

A few days later, the executive director of the Greater Newburyport YWCA responded with a calm reason in The Daily News to allay any fears – “no blame, no shame,” as the guest speaker herself would point out at the start of his speech.

The invitation in the second letter to the author of the first “to come…” caught my attention. [and] learn more about systemic racism and its impact on our youth… »

Never a fan of outdoor fireworks, I’ll take a seat up front for the indoor genre.

Promising advice on “how to talk to young children about race and racism”, the conference, sponsored by Newburyport Youth Services, was open to the public.

Barely 30 of us, all white, attended. Skeptics scoff at the idea of ​​a white person hosting a seminar on race, but many prominent black people urge us to take such initiatives.

Just a few months ago, Edward Carson, Dean of the Governor’s Academy, concluded his William Lloyd Garrison Lecture with a speech to a predominantly white audience to do just that.

It’s no surprise, then, that Debby Irving’s speech opens with a first-person account of her childhood in the wealthy, white town of Winchester, Massachusetts. White people were all she knew.

In the books, she read stories about Africa and the American West. In both cases, the natives were “savages” and nothing ever countered the imposed stereotype.

Indeed, it was the “manifest” will of God – symbolized by such inspiring images as an oversized angel dressed in white flying above the wagon train – that white people were “destined” to bring Christianity into all dark corners of the world.

Most illuminating was his analysis of the GI Bill, a feature of FDR’s New Deal long credited with creating the middle class, allowing returning veterans to go to college, obtain business loans and buy houses.

We all knew that. The novelty for us was that black GIs were being denied benefits because they lived in places that had been “marked” by banks as too risky for investment.

Irving doubts his parents ever knew they were welcome in a town where others were purposely excluded.

Black businesses? Those, too, were highlighted unless you went back more than a century to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a neighborhood known as Black Wall Street flourished for a few decades.

In 1921, he was wiped out by a mob of jealous white people driven mad by a false accusation against a young black man by a white woman.

The two-day massacre killed approximately 300 black people and destroyed 35 city blocks with 191 businesses as well as hotels, schools and residences.

For all of its historical and cultural examples, Irving’s most stunning retort came when she stopped to say she had just learned of Black Wall Street a few years ago.

If that’s true for someone actively seeking America’s true history, what does that say about us?

By the time he went to Q&A, you would have thought the need to teach the history of American race relations was obvious, but one woman opened the remarks complaining that children are forced into guilt and to shame.

His frequent repetition of the words “agenda,” “forced,” and “enforced,” along with the obligatory “critical race theory,” sounded a lot like the letter to City Council — or any Fox News host.

Another woman pointed out that this was all a discussion of options teachers and parents might have – that there was no coercion or imposition on anyone.

All other participants were receptive. Critics can call it an ‘agenda’ or a ‘critical race theory’ all they want, but what we heard were helpful suggestions – in particular that we need to take risks for the truth to come out. .

They are, after all, schools, not nursing homes.

The fact that we’re all white didn’t hurt the event or the message we got from it. But the low turnout was depressing.

Trying to increase it will be the first risk we take.

Red Line Jack Garvey, author of Keep Newburyport Weird and https://buskersdelight.home.blog/at hammlynn@gmail.com.

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