Personal Thoughts After Cville

Dear friends and readers,

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This is a personal reflection.

In another part of my life, I help run a newsletter of social justice events. There’s a joint Jewish-Muslim event coming, and yesterday I received an email that read, in part, “The Palo Alto Police Department recommends not putting it on social media, so we are refraining from that.” And I’m, like, “Let’s advertise it! Bring on the white supremacists! Let them show their faces.” I’m not going to do that, but a substantial part of me wants to.

Folks should know: Jewish people (me. my family.) attend synagogue under armed guard in California. I grew up attending a Bay Area synagogue burnt down by white supremacists two years before my birth. Our Holocaust-survivor Cantor was injured trying to rescue the Torahs. The texts are considered holy, so they are buried and memorialized in the synagogue courtyard, for everyone to see. When I was 10, the synagogue was grafitti’d with swastikas. I never liked going to temple very much, and still don’t. I carry around the feeling, “Really? You want me to deal with this sh*t in the name of something I’m not sure I believe?” with the competing feeling of, “I’ll be damned if some bigoted jerks are going to change my behavior.”

I’m not scared, I’m angry. Incandescent, actually. Black, brown, Muslim, and immigrant lives matter. Yes, all lives matter, but especially the ones that face daily targeting and could use some extra moral support and physical protection.

All of the denigration of human worth we see happening is related. My mother’s family escaped Nazi Germany. Most of my husband’s family on his dad’s side perished, and his Polish grandmother spent World War II hiding in a basement. My nieces and nephews get evacuated from their JCCs annually due to bomb threats. Hell, so do the Christian babies of friends who use JCC preschools. I can “pass” on the street if I don’t wear a Star of David, because I’m white, but a couple weeks ago, my friend of Indian descent was told to “go home” in the Safeway parking lot in Mountain View, with his infant daughter in the car. This man is more Californian than I will ever be, and he has the flat, native California accent to prove it. A college friend’s Nigerian-American husband risked his life to photograph the supremacists in Charlottesville this past weekend. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at their family’s bravery.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I want to add my voice. You should care about these problems because they are immoral. You should also care because it costs taxpayer money for police to respond to racist garbage, to patrol past threatened houses of worship and community centers, to over-police largely black neighborhoods.

The things happening right now in the US are wrong. They aren’t new, but the volume is louder and it would be sinful not to respond. People needing to fear the government’s action (or inaction) is wrong. The hatefulness, whether by commission or omission, is in our systems and in our streets and we cannot accept it.

I don’t have neat answers, but I encourage you to do a little more than you’ve been doing. I’m an introvert, but I’ve found it powerful to attend solidarity rallies (I’ve only started doing this in the last few months.) It’s not always because they’re directly impactful, but because it seems to help folks feel less alone—both those participating and those who pass by and smile at us. Give money to places like CAIR, Cville Solidarity, the SPLC, or any other causes that move you. Ask your friends what they’re doing and tag along. Get together with friends or your faith community and invite a speaker to teach you about Black Lives Matter. Try to stretch a little past your comfort zone, as a demonstration of the fact that you care.

Sending love to you. -Eva

#Charlottesville Resources

Here are some things we’ve been reading amidst the onslaught of daily news. As always, our goal is providing resources that may be useful to teachers and/or students, whether in the classroom or in the larger world.

Common Sense Media has updated a previously-published article, “Explaining the News to Our Kids,” in light of the events in Charlottesville. The article includes tips and strategies for discussing difficult news with children by age-range, which we found particularly helpful.

With the nation still stunned from the horrific display of hate in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, families are once again faced with explaining difficult subjects to kids and teens. And as if hate speech, racism, and oppression weren’t enough, the president’s controversial remarks casting blame on “many sides” puts the burden on parents to educate their kids on the importance of tolerance.

In the meantime, technology is doing the heavy lifting — sending updates, tweets, posts, and breaking news alerts directly to our kids’ phones — long before parents have had a chance to digest the news themselves or discuss it thoughtfully with their kids. In many cases, kids aren’t at an age where they can make sense of these current events and are being thrust into a political debate that can seem scary or overwhelming. Often parents aren’t around to immediately help their kids make sense of challenging, upsetting situations.

The bottom line is that elementary school-aged kids and some middle schoolers have trouble fully understanding news events and their contexts. And though older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion — or misinformation.

From Chalkbeat.org, an excellent snapshot of the developing #CharlottesvilleCurriculum. Since doing this work, we’ve fallen in love with curricula like these, generated by careful curators and excellent crowdsourcing on twitter. Chalkbeat’s summary is worthwhile if you’re pressed for time, but we seriously encourage those who can to delve into the developing document itself.

From Chalkbeat:

Looking for help addressing Charlottesville in class? Dozens of other educators have your back.

In the wake of the racist violence in Virginia that left one protester dead this weekend, teachers took to Twitter with #CharlottesvilleCurriculum to share resources for addressing racism, hate, and history.

From the #CharlottesvilleCurriculum itself (a publicly-viewable Google doc):

This is inspired by the thread created by Melinda D. Anderson#CharlottesvilleCurriculum on Twitterin response to the White Supremacist/NAZI rally, violence and murder that took place in Charlottesville.

As educators, our job is to protect, support, love and educate all of our students. Anyone can add to this document.  Please feel free to add & make your own copy. This is a working document.

Facing History is another excellent place; they suggest a couple of their already-existing resources as appropriate for our time and place today. First up, Holocaust and Human Behavior, a multi-media collection that can also be used as a printable book. The Table of Contents is a great entry point.

Also from Facing History, we recommend The Reconstruction Era and Fragility of Democracy.

Facing History has produced a series of videos and accompanying lessons that will introduce a rigorous study of the Reconstruction era into American history classrooms. Our video series includes interviews with scholars of the Reconstruction era who provide insight into this complex history and address questions of freedom, justice, equality, and citizenship that are at the heart of the Reconstruction.

We have also developed a complete unit that offers 16 lessons and many primary source documents. The unit, available in print, ebook, and free PDF, will guide students through a deep exploration of the Reconstruction era while enhancing their ethical decision-making and capacity for emotional growth.

More to come from us. If you have suggestions or additional material, please don’t hesitate to pass it along. And huge thanks to Claudia of Mindful Digital Life (among many other projects) for flagging these resources.

Notes After Charlottesville

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Ella Baker portrait by Robert Shetterly. Courtesy of Americans Who Tell the Truth. Found here by Small Stones.

The Ella Baker Center is re-publicizing this post from 2013: Ella’s Song: “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until it Comes”.

We found the words of the post comforting. As the author notes,

The song is an anthem, a meditation on the ultimate lesson of the freedom fight passed down generationally by Ms. Ella herself that is meant to be spoken boldly out loud or under one’s breath as the situation demands to empower both purpose and resolve.

Here is a video of the Sweet Honey performance:

We are also proud to share the news that some of Ézé’s pictures from this past weekend are helping folks understand the hatefulness of the white supremacists. (We featured his work and words here).

Here’s one of his pictures that’s been picked up by the AP. The man pictured is accused of killing Heather Heyer, the protester who died.

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Ézé is on Instagram here. Below is a screen grab of another of his photos from the past weekend.

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Finally, here’s a recent article from The Atlantic: Why the Charlottesville Marchers Were Obsessed With Jews. While the hatred is multi-faceted, so, too, is the pushback.

With love from us to you.

Revisiting Charlottesville

“…and then some of them took a knee and got out their gas masks, and at this point I was telling some of the policemen, ‘This is not necessary! What are you doing?’”

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photograph courtesy of Ézé Amos

In our most recent interview with photographer Ézé Amos, we mentioned that Ézé would be out again on August 12th, the day of another planned right-wing, white-supremacist march. That march, and its aftermath, are currently taking place.

We’re reposting our interview with Ézé to do what we can to highlight the strong grassroots community response to this horrific Nazi march. (And yes, we’ll stick with the term ‘Nazi’ so long as participants are carrying swastikas.)

Stay safe out there, all. Thank you for your courage.

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Here at Small Stones, we define education, and educators, broadly. So often, classrooms appear in the most unexpected places.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

As we continue our own work of interviewing some of these educators, we wanted to share with you work from a friend of the blog. Photographer and photojournalist Eze Amos, a Charlottesville, Virginia local, has found himself in the middle of some of the larger protests and counter protests that have taken place since the 2016 election. We are featuring some of his images in this post; there are far more on his Instagram feed.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

The issue at hand? A statue of Robert E. Lee, erected in 1924, that the city voted to remove earlier this year. The removal, however, is being held up by legal challenges. In May, white supremacist groups marched on the city carrying torches. This past Saturday, July 8, the KKK arrived.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

We were fortunate to be able to talk with Eze about his experience at the counter-demonstration, and here’s what he had to say:

What I saw, after the KKK guys had left the city, is they drove off with police escort right in front of them, and there was a [police] car behind the convoy of KKK guys. I’ve been telling friends about this actually, they were definitely given—the only thing short of red carpet treatment was actual red carpets. What they give them that day, it was amazing. Anyhow, the police escorted the KKK out of the city. And of course, people were still agitated—KKK came to town—so there were still people out in the streets. Nobody was being violent.

The police, the state police that were all in riot gear, turned around as though they were leaving. [Then] they went back up to the park and then suddenly they turned around, and then some of them took a knee and got out their gas masks. And at this point I was telling some of the policemen, “This is not necessary! What are you doing?” But they just kept doing what they were doing, putting on their masks, so I immediately stepped a little bit away from them.

Moments later, I heard the first gas canister go off, which was without warning. They didn’t warn anybody. So of course some of the people saw that this was happening, that the police put on gas masks, so they wrapped cloaks around their faces, to prevent whatever gas they were going to deploy. Now they’re charging those people for covering their faces in a public place, which I think is ridiculous. So that was what I saw. The police deployed the gas after KKK had left. KKK had left, and twenty minutes after they had left, this whole gas thing happened, and they deployed three gas canisters.

And the craziest part of it was after they did this, the crowd, you know, people were still on the streets, and the police just turned around, got in their vans, and drove off. The state police. So they weren’t really deploying the gas to displace the people or get the people out of the street, they were just doing it for exercise, I think, because it doesn’t make sense that you’d deploy gas and then you’d turn around and just leave the people on the street and just drive off.

So basically, that is what happened. That’s what I saw. I got some photos to back that up. You can see [from] most of the photos, I didn’t get right to where the gas was deployed initially, because of course I was running away from getting the gas in my system, and I got some, I got pepper in my face and stuff, but, yeah. That is what I saw. That’s what happened.

Police ultimately used tear gas, and 23 counter-protestors were arrested. Local activists are currently preparing to oppose a planned Alt-Right March on Charlottesville. If you’re interested in helping out, you can contribute to Solidarity Cville Anti-Racist Legal Fund here. You can also use an ACLU-spearheaded form to register your thoughts with the Charlottesville City Council.

Unless the city revokes the permit for the August 12th march, we may, unfortunately, be featuring more images from the ensuing pushback.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

 

Op-Ed: ‘The Policies of White Resentment’

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Photo by Steve Rotman. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0.

This weekend we read Carol Anderson’s editorial, The Policies of White Resentment, in the New York Times Sunday Review. For us, it provided a framework for understanding the series of incendiary social policies coming from the Administration in D.C., from the ‘Muslim Ban’ in January to the President’s recent call to law enforcement officers to rough up arrestees.

Professor Anderson holds an endowed professorship at Emory University, and earlier this year she won a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for her book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. We found her article’s synthesis of current events helpful. (Our readers who are more knowledgeable about the politics of race may find it old hat. Please let us know if this is the case! And feel free to point us to other reading we ought to be doing.)

We’ve excerpted the article here, with a link to keep reading if you’re interested.

The Policies of White Resentment, by Carol Anderson

“White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House. And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties.

“If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that no other Republican candidate could match, and that credibility has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.

“The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

“Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week, Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.

Continue reading at NYTimes…

Friday Music: Rhiannon Giddens, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’

Wayfaring Stranger is an old North American folksong that’s been sung by artists as diverse as Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, and Ed Sheeran. We like this version by Rhiannon Giddens. Lyrics below.

A restful weekend to you, from us!

Wayfaring Stranger

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world of woe
But there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that fair land to which I go
I’m going there to see my father
I’m going there no more to roam
I am just going over Jordan
I am just going over home

I know dark clouds will gather round me
I know my way is rough and steep
But beau-teous fields lie just before me
Where God’s redeemed their vigils keep
I’m going home to see my mother
She said she’d meet me when I come
I’m only going over Jordan
I’m only going over home
I’m just a going over home