Friday, December 07, 2007

Jenna Six Debacle

I was watching a baseball game on TV recently when I saw a wonderful sight. People streamed into the stands and sat down to watch. They were people of all kinds and nobody cared who sat where as long as he or she had the correct ticket number. They watched the game and ate their hot dogs and went home in peace.


Such a sight would mean nothing to young people, but to those of us who have been around a few years, it is little more than a miracle. Many of us dreamed that it could someday happen, but we didn’t know it could come to pass with out deadly struggles.

Thanks to cool heads, people of all races can go and do what they want and nobody cares! I saw it in my lifetime and I am grateful to have seen it.

And then there was the ugly scene in a town called Jena, where some ass decided a tree would look good if it had nooses on it. Then kids of one race ganged up on a kid from another race and a minor war began.

I have been a teacher in public schools and I have looked out at a classroom of faces of Palestinian kids, Caucasian kids, Chinese kids, Black kids and Hispanic kids and thought to myself, “this is where tolerance begins.”

There are two places where race has no meaning. One is in church and the other is in school (a kind of secular church). A teacher teaches all who enter the room. He or she doesn’t have the time or inclination to favor one group or the other.

One time I taught in a middle school. And it had a tree on the campus that provided a very pleasant shade on sunny days. It was also the site of segregation. Yep! Only eighth graders were allowed to sit under that tree. They were the seniors of the school, and it was their privilege, their earned right, to relax under its branches during lunch.

Teachers in that school were mostly white but there were some black and Asian teachers also, and perhaps a Hispanic teacher from time to time. The majority of students were Asian. There was no hint of racial intolerance at the school. The subject didn’t come up because it didn’t have to. It was unthinkable. Parents and teachers just did not contemplate any differences based on the color of someone’s skin.

And then there is the Jena school blow-up. How could such a thing happen in the year 2007? I do not live there and cannot speculate, except to think that perhaps the teachers decided that the “modern” thing to do was let the inmates run the asylum.

Yes, modernity happens. In 1972 when my son was in a large high school, the principal was trying to find a room where students could smoke cigarettes because, “they were going to do it, anyway.” Now, most campuses are “smoke free” and even teachers do not smoke on them.

I like what the radio host Dennis Prager once said: “There are only two races—the decent and the indecent.” He is a wise man.

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