Wednesday, September 8, 2021

See It


Available on line and probably in this week’s Flier/HoCo Times, two letters to the editor worth reading. The first one appears under the heading “Columbia Lakefront Concerts Lack Diversity”, the second, “Racial Inequality Has A Long History”. These letters leapt off the page for me this morning because I had a bit of a run-in with my peers on a music teachers’ Facebook page yesterday on an issue that was rooted in race.

It began when some well-meaning person posted a rather well-known meme.

Every time I see this I wince. So yesterday I decided to do something about it. I made my own meme.

I posted it along with the question, “why don’t we ever see memes like this?”

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive feedback. But the negative was pretty much what I expected.

“This is supposed to be about music education. You are making it about race.” 

After going around in circles a bit on this I got frustrated and wrote:

Can you give me any good reason that an adult choir, orchestra, or student ensemble would not contain *any* Black or Brown musicians?  The only one that makes any sense is that the people in these photographs live in a universe where Black and Brown people do not exist.

And I just don’t think that’s likely.

I want to add that I have no sense of “holier-than-thou” about this. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve truly “seen” this. As a white person I might look at the traditional meme and see “choir”, “orchestra” and might respond to the second meme “Black choir, Black orchestra” because we are raised to see ourselves as the norm, the default. That’s not healthy for anybody and it’s really bad for students.

You can’t be what you can’t see. - - Marian Wright Edelman

Anyone who can look at a photograph of an all-white choir, orchestra, and music class and not see that it is about race is someone who sees being white as the default state. Often when people like this say, “I don’t see color” it is truly their own color that they don’t see. And they strongly dislike being asked to look at that, examine that, talk about it.

In this week’s letters to the editor we have two examples of community members seeing issues that involve racial disparities and asking us to consider them. I don’t know how much people read letters to the editor anymore but I hope that you will.

On that note, have you made a submission to the Brave Voices, Brave Choices  initiative sponsored by the Howard County Library? We all have stories. Go over and read what community members are sharing and then add one of your own.

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