Anti-racism is the process of actively identifying and opposing racism. This week, I sat through a Government Oversight Committee meeting where Ames Community School District (ACSD) came to defend their Black Lives Matters (BML) Week of Action Ames Superintendent Jenny Risner, Director of Equity Anthony Jones, school board member Monic Behnken and Executive Director of Education Jeff Hawkins were made to listen to defensive and upsetting rants from the Republican members of the Committee (Here is a link to the long committee meeting). Instead of asking questions, Republicans used their time to attack those they had called to committee with their preconceived perceptions of the events and would not allow members from the school district to counter their misconceptions.
Government Oversight Committee Republicans have also blasted University of Iowa Dental School, and the Regents Universities with similar rants and scoldings. Republicans support free speech only in name, and fight to dismantle protected speech at every juncture. It is my opinion that the Republicans believe only their speech is speech that should be allowed, however racist, homophobic, and unconscious of the privilege it may be.
In the book Standing Our Ground: The Triumph of Faith Over Gun Violence: A Mother’s Story, by Lucia McBath. The author, Lucia, writes about her experiences as a black working single mother. Every time she went to visit her son’s first-grade class he, the only black student in the class, was sitting in the hall as punishment. She asked both the teacher and the principal about this and they both recommended that she have her son tested for ADHD. Although she knew her son did not have ADHD, she agreed to have him tested. The test was negative. He was a normal six-year-old boy. Implicit bias is present everywhere and we need to work to acknowledge and erase it.
The Ames Community School District is doing the right thing. Since the implementation of the BML Week of Action, the ACSD has been doing a thorough review of the process. They willingly admitted that the community should have had more time for public input, that teachers should have been given more time for preparation, and that publicly sharing all of the available resources were mistakes they will avoid in the future. But what they are doing is right. When someone finds themselves offended by a race and class-conscious education, it is an important opportunity for self-reflection, not censorship.