Fear and silencing in 2016?

The initial reactions of many in the wake of Donald Trump’s election have been fearful, ugly, gloating and generally panicky. There is an abundance if not an excess of caution. There has been local Radio talk-show indignation and Facebook hand-wringing over an evidently Anti-Trump message slipped into a school trophy case. It seems proof that political animosity works both ways. The tremors across northern Minnesota Schools yesterday from a vague threat is likely one more manifestation of this sorry situation.

I’m afraid that one more consequence of this election result is a powerful urge to cover our eyes and ears. At Tuesday’s school board meeting Supt. Gronseth expressed unhappiness with the student at Denfeld who took a picture of racist grafitti and posted it to Facebook to show how things were at the school. I’ll bet the police who have just charged a jumpy policeman in the Twin Cities with manslaughter may feel much the same way about Internet Videos. Silence is Golden.

I disagree. Communication is golden.

Yesterday a speech by an African-American historian was given at East High but then canceled for Denfeld when it was deemed inappropriate and perhaps an incitement to bad behavior. That’s a shame because the Denfeld students showed remarkable maturity and creativity in the face of the racist grafitti found on a bathroom wall. They countered it with a student led campaign to retake the school’s walls with positive and uplifting post-it note messages. According to one source this is what they missed when Dr. El-Kati was silenced:

“According to 3 equity minded individuals who all saw El-Kati’s talk yesterday at East, they are in complete and utter shock that Denfeld did not get to hear the awesome messages that El-Kati delivered. His main theme was moral character, and also touched on many topics and historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, John Lewis, Frederick Douglas, Quakers, MLK, war, Minnesota tops in education, Duluth is wonderful, power and privilege, among others.

“They said Denfeld kids needed that talk more than East kids.”

I was unaware of the speech which the District had contracted until the Superintendent offered this post script to his email to School Board members about the “non specific threat.” This is all I know of why Dr. El-Kati’s Denfeld appearance was canceled:

Oh– and Dr El-Kati’s visit did not go as well as hoped. He did not deliver the planned message. He did not meet the terms of the contract. After things did not go well at East, it was decided that the Denfeld presentation would be canceled.

Judging by the superlative response of the Denfeld students to racist grafitti I have every confidence that they could have handled whatever Dr. El-Kati had to say. I wish my confidence in our students was more widely shared.