With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'The language of the unheard'

I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. -- Dr. Martin Luther King 
Obama: "Stay calm and accept..."
Obama in Chicago yesterday
He tells us again to stay calm and accept the grand jury's decision:
"Don't take the short-term easy route and just engage in destructive behavior. Take the long-term hard but lasting route of working with me, governors, officials to bring about some real change."
But who is the president talking to?

This hasn't been an "easy route," and we haven't engaged in "destructive behavior." Yes, there are lots of disaffected youth--many without jobs, education or hope for their future--rioting in anger over the events in Ferguson, speaking the language of the unheard. But Obama's scold means nothing to them. Speaking at the Copernicus Community Center on the north side of Chicago, the President is a hundred times removed from them and their experiences.

Here in Chicago, we had thousands of mostly young people in the streets demanding justice for Mike Brown and calling for respect for black lives. There were over a million people in the streets nationally yesterday, engaging in mainly peaceful protests. 

What "real change" is the president talking about? Who are these governors and officials we are supposed to be working with? What exactly have he and these officials done over the past 6 years to push this "real change"? And where is Holder and the Justice Department?

Six plus years and still waiting to hear, Mr. Obama.

And if you want to talk about 'destructive behavior'... 
Along with the decline in the standard of living for millions and the widening U.S. wealth gap, has come the militarization of local police forces in preparation for an anticipated rise in civil unrest.

According to yesterday's Washington Post, several federal programs are helping local law enforcement to acquire heavy weapons, either by making funds available or by providing the equipment directly. One program at the Pentagon transferred surplus military equipment worth nearly half a billion dollars to local police departments last year. Grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security total another $1 billion, and Holder's department provides hundreds of millions more.
"We do not condition that money on requiring real change in policing," said Sherrilynn Ifill of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a press conference on Tuesday. "Taxpayer money to local police departments should come with the condition that the police take responsibility for improving."
The education piece
We need to replace Ownership Society education, testing madness and Racing to the Top with democratic education. Preparing children to think critically and act powerfully to shape the world they are entering and become agents of change.

For example, check out this curriculum piece from Rethinking Schools.

The events in and around Ferguson are a good place to start. Why? Because our students are interested. They are watching.

1 comment:

  1. Mike,
    Thanks for that great statement of educational purpose. I'm using it in my syllabus.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.