Institutional racism has been on our minds a lot after the heartbreaking presidential election results (notice I find it hard to even commit his name to the page here). We happen to live in a pretty white place, which is one major disadvantage of the Pacific Northwest, and something that bothers us now more than ever.
Jeff has been reading Race & Racisms: A Critical Approach, by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza, which I plan to pick up next. Throughout my life I have experienced that general level of discrimination borne out of being a woman, and I have also been consistently discriminated against for being a mother. I have however, a particular experience of racism, being of Jewish descent (not to mention Scottish as well, a people still struggling with what it means to be so). With D asking lots of questions about WWII (after visiting Pearl Harbor), war, and good vs evil (who will win?), are frequent topics of discussion.
One reason we like being at the Gardner School is so that D can experience America as it is, not the demographics of the place we live. Although there aren’t many people of color there, there are more than 0, and Willis and Jackie are major role models. D is somewhat color blind, although that is changing as he learns more American history. He is noticing that Willis is black, and colleague Roman is black, and he is not black.
At music night you may have noticed the lyrics in the last ensemble piece: “We are a rainbow of people/ we have our own history /…” I was relieved to see that the stage did contain a rainbow, but still, sadly, an incomplete one.
Now more than ever amazing musical artists are making incredible and important statements about being black in America, and I’m using these to start to explain racism to D, as he’s ready for it.
Exhibit A: Christian Scott.
One great piece comes from jazz trumpeter Christian Scott, in this Tiny Desk concert, in which he and his band play heavenly music from his last record, but he also tells his “driving while black” story. At first I was skipping this part of the interview when D and I watched the video, but D was interested in why a police officer might be acting unfairly, so now I let him watch Christian tell his story without skipping ahead.
Plus the music will blow you mind.
…this is also a must-see for the other-wordly Elena Pinderhughes, rocking it on her flute (check this out Eva!)
Then there is Kamasi Washington, changing the world of jazz and speaking in a more subtle but still powerful way about racism (I’m thinking of his cover of Cherokee, and spiritual jazz bent). And John Legend. And Kendrick Lamar. And Frank Ocean (in Nikes: “RIP Trayvon, that ni**er looked just like me).
These have all been in heavy rotation during 2016.
Exhibit B: Solange
But somehow I slept on the mind-blowing Solange (Beyonce’s far less mainstream, far more interesting, sister). Not only is she making music that is genre redefining, but also giving voice to her experience of racism in a poetic and brilliantly moving way.
I tried to drink it away
I tried to put one in the air
I tried to dance it away
I tried to change it with my hair
I ran my credit card bill up
Thought a new dress would make it better
I tried to work it away
But that just made me even sadder
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around in circles
Think I made myself dizzy
I slept it away, I sexed it away
I read it away
Away, away, away, away, away
Away, away, away, away, away
Well it’s like cranes in the sky
Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds
And then there’s Pharrell. And Common. And Robert Glasper, and Selma, and the 13th…it’d be impossible to grow up today without recognizing that this is a major issue of our time, and with a backlash election, it’s more important than ever to have these discussions, without pretending we live in a glorious rainbow of light and love.
Even if you’re 6.
I told D that maybe he can be President one day, and start to get everything sorted out. He might be able to do more as a Superhero though, because I think that’s what we’re going to need. Lots of ’em.