In a special ceremony Tuesday morning, the Jesuit order that founded Georgetown University formally apologized to the descendants of 272 slaves sold in 1838 to pay off the university’s debts.
Oliver Clasper, a London-born photographer and journalist, . . . has set out to provoke a conversation with a project he calls The Spaces We Inherit. In photographs and interviews, he is documenting historic sites where African Americans were terrorized and murdered by white neighbors, and how individuals living in the orbit of this buried past are affected by it today.
Princeton University’s trustees have approved recommendations to name West College, a prominent and central campus building, for the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, an emeritus faculty member at Princeton, and to name the major auditorium in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for Sir Arthur Lewis, a Nobel laureate in Economics, who served on the school’s faculty from 1963 to 1983. The new names will take effect on July 1.
The following essay by Lee Mun Wah cites school incidents remarkably similar to those that have happened over the past year in Princeton. Thank you to NIOT board member Roberto Schiraldi for bringing it to our attention.
Recently, in a neighboring city near my home, a group of concerned families held a school rally in response to a racial incident at their mostly white, affluent high school. Several students of color had been targeted on Instagram by someone posting their photos in a highly derogatory and racially offensive manner. In response, parents and students declared the need for tolerance and a stance against discrimination. Many parents were in shock that racism was even taking place at their school, because they felt their school practiced inclusiveness and had made social justice one of its core tenets. One parent shared with the reporters that the rally served as a way of healing for the school. However, some parents of the targeted students spoke, and demanded further support in making sure this incident didn’t happen again. One parent whose daughter’s picture had been posted said (of the photos), “…they were horrible, horrible graphic pictures of racism. Not just racially charged, but shocking.” The superintendent called the incident horrifying and the images disgusting. She said, “Some students have been disciplined based on their level of involvement.”
One of the students shared with a reporter, “…our school has been touted as a safe place, and we’ve been told there is no place for this, but we don’t feel the administration is projecting that.” Another student shared that they wanted more openness and clarity. Others also expressed concerns over an anti-Semitic incident that also had occurred. “I had no idea this kind of hateful stuff was going on here, I really didn’t,” a parent said. “It’s taken me aback. It’s also given me an opportunity to talk to my kids.”
In reality, this same scenario is happening at alarming rates all around this country. We often feel that if we immediately punish the offenders, the problem will go away. While in reality, perhaps our greatest fear is that this may only be the tip of the iceberg. I remember when the shooting happened in Littleton, Colorado, so many schools across the country rushed to have more police officers and gun detectors to curb future violence. Alternatively, at a school leadership meeting I attended, an American Indian principal took a much different stance. She said, “At our school, we are looking at how the environment at our school might be like the one in Littleton, Colorado.” In other words, exploring and examining our part in this tragedy is something necessary for any in-depth solution and healing.
Following suit, here are some pertinent questions I believe we should ask of ourselves when reading about the discriminatory incident noted above:
To truly be “inclusive”, there must be a willingness to…
Lee Mun Wah is an internationally renowned Chinese American documentary filmmaker, author, poet, Asian folkteller, educator, community therapist and master diversity trainer. More of his work can be found at StirFry Seminars & Consulting