As a White, middle class, male, and mid-western ope*, I acknowledge that I have benefited from an oppressive system. I have had the privilege to live my life without fear of brutal actions or judgments working against me based on the color of my skin. I learned about race in a late '90s/early '00s culture that praised the peaceful work of Martin Luther King, Jr., but questioned, at best, the ideas of other Black leaders who were perceived as using more visceral language and action toward achieving equal rights. As an adult, it has become clear that for too long White culture has appropriated Dr. King's words to its own cause, largely maintaining a complacent status quo without seeming too obvious. For example, "colorblindness" was widely encouraged as an awakening for Whites, when in reality Dr. King's statement on judging based on the content of our character was used as a means of ignoring other cultural perspectives to perpetuate the "normality" of the White culture so often conflated as "American." Beyond acknowledging that I have benefited from systemic White privilege, I will prioritize listening to Black voices in my community, and carefully consider my civil engagement in accordance with what best benefits those most in need.
As an educator I will continue listening to and working to understand the dynamics and struggles in the lives of Black students so that I can best serve their needs and provide a trusting and fertile environment for their expression and growth.
It is undeniable that Black people have been systematically targeted, labeled inhuman and unworthy in the eyes of the law, and unfairly prosecuted in the United States since before the United States was even officially founded. All of our history is tarnished with this fact. No apology can shine this up. No single piece of legislation can account for the pain endured by descendants of the roughly 388,000 enslaved Africans who survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade's horrific Middle Passage and were taken to North America, or the millions more who went to the Caribbean and South America first, then were transported to North America. Indeed, the enslaved population in the United States alone reached nearly 4 million in a country of about 31 million according to the Census of 1860. Simple math: That's about ⅛ of the inhabitants of this land who were not recognized as being human. So. Headlines of lynchings and excessive use of police force persist. This is a time to take history into our hands. Change that is desperately needed for many may feel uncomfortable for some. This is a time to get to know our discomfort with race, dig into where that comes from, and do the work to become enlightened and active allies for a more united humanity.
Uncrated will continue to support Black voices, especially in our main areas of focus, STEM and museum culture, which encompass a number of communities in dire need of honest reflection and an open dialogue on diversification. As Illinois museums are beginning to plan their re-openings, we are looking for opportunities to highlight the folks doing amazing work at our local cultural institutions. Feel free to comment or e-mail suggestions!
Stay safe as you explore, question (great time to really dig into this one, here!), and uncrate an adventure in your community!
*Yeah, I'm using "ope" as a pronoun, get on board!
Lunsford Lane image: By J.H Bufford's Lith Boston. - The book "Lunsford Lane; or, Another helper from North Carolina" (1863) by Hawkins, William George, 1823-1909. Retrevived from archive.org , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7377421