I woke up a week ago thinking about the DWB posts (here’s the first) and the learning gap in Duluth Schools and six years worth of posts that I categorize as “civil rights.” I’m 63 years old. I went to an integrated elementary school in Topeka, Kansas embarrassed by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling and now, sixty plus years later, America is still choking on its first black president (half white Kansan by the by) and the rationalization that 300 years of history is not our fault. OK. So, what is a sixty-three year old fart supposed to do about it all?
I was handed a couple hundred business cards when I got on the School Board again. I had to make my own the first time I got elected. I made two versions. The first one grimly quoted the philosopher Santayana “Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.” That was a nod to the recent Statutory Operating Debt problem that made the District bankrupt in the early 90’s. Then I made up a new batch with the optimistic lyric of a big band Era song, “You’ve gotta Accentuate the positive.” I would have fit right in with today’s happy talk crowd.
The District’s new business cards are safe. No slogans. They also include my District email address but I prefer to have people contact me on my personal email in case Big Brother is watching. Nonetheless, the cards do have my personal cell number and they were a freebie for me. They do little good wasting away in a drawer.
So I woke up and thought about how we are not the color blind society that sounded so good to a liberal back in the Days of Lyndon Johnson. No, our eyes can pretty quickly discern someone afflicted with too much melanin. So are most Police. Knowing that street drugs come from big cities and are often distributed by the melanin afflicted there is a strong temptation to let the victims of this debilitating social disease know that they are being watched carefully. Its not prejudice really. Look at Carlson the synthetic drug king of Duluth. We took him out too. Ah, but if you are a black parent with a black child learning to drive…….I think galling is the word that fits best.
Well, I’ve got an affliction too. I’m fully sighted :(although with corrective lenses, and not colorblind. Furthermore, I can see African American features at a glance. Additionally when I hear African Americans say AXE instead of ASK I make all sorts of assumptions about their shortcomings.
I wondered as I woke up what I might learn if I acted on my disability and started walking up to African Americans in Duluth to introduce myself, hand out my ISD 709 School Board business card and say something like: “Hi, I’m Harry Welty. I am a member of the Duluth School Board. This will sound a little odd but since we have not been doing a great job giving our minority children the education they deserve I decided to introduce myself to African Americans I saw on the street. Please take my business card in case you or any of your friends have any concerns that you would like to share with me.”
Since I woke up with this idea I’ve actually acted on it four times and will continue doing so. Its pretty awkward but I figure I’ll get better at it, kind of like when I go door to door in a political campaign. Within a few days I always come up with a natural patter after knocking on a couple dozen doors.
The first person I spoke to was a graduate of Central High from about six years ago. He thought we should make school more fun. I agree. We need to give a lot more tests. On the second occasion I talked to two woman who turned out to be medical professionals from Africa working for local hospitals. The third time I talked to a woman from South Dakota who had a white South Dakota boyfriend. She told me that she’s gotten some grief for being a traitor to the race. Finally, I climbed down from my ladder yesterday and unnerved a poor middle school student who I thought might be a college kid waiting for the bus. She gripped my business card with a look that said. “Momma told me never to talk to strange men.” Had I realized I was looking at a sixth or seventh grader I would never have bothered her. I’d forgotten that good old East High is a middle school now.
Maybe you can call what I’m inflicting on Duluth’s black (for now) residents a PWB, “politicked while black.” Its probably scarier than a DWB.