by Mikel Kwaku Oshi Holt
To Dr. Deb Kerr, Superintendent, Brown Deer School District:
If there were a monthly “John Brown Activist Award” honoree process, I would nominate you.
Your public statement concerning the trauma suffered by your “Black” Brown Deer high school football players after being taunted by racist slurs from White “suburban” team players was a fourth-quarter interception returned for a touchdown.
I want to commend you for stepping forward and putting your concerns on social media under the heading, “Enough is Enough, Equity is Not Just Another Cliché”.
I also think it was noteworthy that you also threw flags at the feet of parents, school administration and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Associations (WIAA) coaches and referees. Each is complicit in maintaining a racist environment and promoting White Supremacy.
Amateur sports is supposedly a colorblind activity.
The fact that it is not viewed as such by the bigots-in-training speaks volumes about the continued state of racial polarization in America today.
I further agree with your assessment that the African American players will suffer long term trauma by these verbal assaults, just as their predecessors and parents who have endured oppression and White supremacy.
If there’s a silver lining, it may be these incidents are providing your students with armor to survive adulthood under the shadow of apartheid.
I’m sure you now realize why African American parents still teach our children survival skills that are sometimes embarrassing and redundant. Who would have thought that a half century after Martin Luther King’s speech on a colorblind society, that the racial harmony needle has moved only slightly?
In fact, many African Americans would posit we have slid back down the mountain since the election of 45IQ.
As a result, and with Brown Deer now a majority-minority district, I can almost guarantee you’ll probably have to secure another doctorate to learn how to address this disturbing and disingenuous problem. Unfortunately, a degree in theology will help slightly, but history has shown that most bigots worship a different god than you or I.
In either case, the truth is the solution to this tragedy rests more so in your hands than it does in ours.
As I noted in a column last year, I have given up hope we—African Americans– can change a racist’s heart. But he or she may listen to you.
In the interim, I believe your list of “solutions” is apropos. Force them to acknowledge their egregious behavior, educate them on the roots of racism and its impact on victims, and developing school board equity policies will take a bite out of the elephant in the room.
I also agree with your suggestion to confront parents, who are either racist themselves, or if not, are ignorant of their children’s behavior and assumptions of White superiority.
More useful would be a suggestion to penalize schools and districts for the conduct of their students and parents.
And I’m not talking about 10-yard penalties.
Take a game away from the home team, strip them of their participation in the WIAA. Block students from gaining exposure to college scholarships.
That’s how you fight fire with fire.
And while you might consider that too harsh, I would say it’s not severe enough. Ask the victims.
If there is nothing else we have learned during our 400-year sojourn in this country, it’s that slapping a racist on the wrist generally only results in hurting our hands.
Indeed, most African Americans have accepted the notion that racism permeates our society, and neither marches, preaching nor prayers is going to change that reality. (I do assume that heaven is not going to be a crowded place, and the bigots are in for a rude surprise when they discover St. Peter is a brother.)
Given that reality, what we fight for is that the racists keep their warped opinions to themselves. We know there are many racists cops. I can deal with that reality. Just create mechanisms to ensure their attitudes are not allowed to justify mistreatment or prejudice.
The same is true of corporate America. As long as racism is not used to block the door, I’ll work around it.
Another truth I’ve tried to explain to succeeding generations is that you can’t legislate attitudes. A politician or judge who says he or she can eliminate racism is a fool, or thinks we are.
Unfortunately, we are in this predicament in part because far too many people of color were sold a bill of goods—thinking that so-called integration would somehow end oppression and racism.
The reality is our so-called leaders and the media sold us a bill of goods, particularly as it relates to school segregation.
In truth, every time I heard a school superintendent, politicians or the Journal using that term– integration–I cringed.
They had to know that Judge John Reynolds didn’t issue an ‘integration’ order to tear down the wall of educational apartheid in Milwaukee. He ordered a “desegregation” process. He knew that legally and realistically, you can’t order integration, which is as much an attitude as it is a societal paradigm.
It was his hope that through diversity and education, society would benefit.
Little did he know the educational paradigm would work against his dreams. Probably by design, the government school curriculum, particularly what you offer as “American history,” is part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
In truth, it would more appropriately be called His-story.
As an educator, you should understand that the sanitized, misinformation propaganda you still provide as ‘history,’ actually promotes White supremacy.
When all the heroes are White, their inventions the result of their ‘superior intellect,’ and the worse form of slavery known to mankind was justified by biblical scripture, you are actually propagating a sense of inferiority and second-class citizenship.
You are telling our children they contributed nothing to world history, the only hero of note was King, and our historic contributions to math, science and medicine we introduced were actually provided by aliens.
Start with that course if you want to impact the indoctrination process. Tell them the truth, no matter how painful the examination. A cure can only come from a proper diagnosis.
Speaking of cure, I can’t help but wonder what you might think or say as you travel down the hallways of your diverse setting and hear young Black “scholars” calling each other niggers (n-word)?
Would the rules of tolerance apply to them as well? Or would you try to convince them that they are in fact the pawn products of institutional racism. Can you convince them that their misguided and erroneous belief that by replacing an ‘er’ with a ‘ra’ at the end of nigger, it is somehow less offensive, or empowers them?
Likewise, thinking we can somehow have a copywrite on the word is both ridiculous and myopic.
Have you ever asked an African American student who freely uses the epithet (which they probably learned from their parents) why they are upset when a White person uses the term but not when their mama calls them one?
That’s a dichotomy that has burned a hole in my soul. I’ve long felt one way to end racism is to remove race from our vocabulary. The same for nigger (n-word). You don’t lessen the impact by replacing “nigger” or “nigras” with the “n-word” Let’s outlaw its use entirely.
I have nothing but distrain for the word, but I’ve failed in convincing young folks of the real history behind the word and how they are being duped into contributing to their own inferiority by using it.
Some of them even go so far as take ownership, declaring who can “legitimately” use the word?
I say, why use it at all. It was the most significant recorded propaganda and indoctrination tool of my lifetime. In your course you should include a lesson or two on the Willie Lynch papers. Maybe that will wake up Black and White students.
In fact, let’s stop with this idiotic replacement term—n-word. When I use ‘n-word,’ there is a level of sarcasm behind it.
What if a 10-year-old asked you what it meant? What would you say?
Do you think other urban government schools have not encountered similar scenarios?
Just look at what recently occurred in Madison, where a Black employee, Marlon Anderson, was fired for telling a Black American student not to call him a “nigger.” He eventually got his job back, which puts into question the government school’s no-tolerance rule.
The thought occurred to me that if the Black student had been politically correct, and called Anderson a “Black n-word” would he be punished?
In fairness, if you’re going to take action against Whites for using it, I think you can’t ignore the African Americans…err, excuse me…the Black Americans who use it.
Black Americans are a different ethnicity, a creation of apartheid and slavery. They are nomads without a culture, religion, or ethnic foundation. African Americans wouldn’t call themselves ‘niggers’ or ‘n-words’ because they know there are none in the Motherland.
Finally, Ms. Kerr, it may be useful to turn your head if one of your African American students shoves that racist epithet down the throat of a suburban brat who calls him one.
I vividly recall a case many years ago involving a Hue-man student attending a suburban school who kicked the butt of a young bigot-wanna-be who called him a nigger (he didn’t say n-word).
It was a fair fight, but because the young brother came out on top, he was immediately expelled. The privileged White kid got that slap on the wrist that privilege dictates.
But what the district didn’t realize is that the African American student’s father was a prominent Milwaukee police officer who appealed the decision in court. And though it wasn’t widely reported (outside this publication) the judge rescinded the expulsion, noting the white boy had used a ‘fighting word,’ and thus should have expected to get his butt kicked.
I assume that case was not used as a precedent, for if it did, there would be civil war. But maybe we should replicate that entire scenario the next time a white football player calls an African American player a nigger, or even an n-word. You know what’s going to happen and this time have your district take it to court. That would really open some eyes.
Of course, in my case, there would be an equal number of Black children in harm’s way, because I taught my Fulani princes and princesses not to accept that word from anyone—White, Black, or in between!
And as for the parents? Well, I once asked a Black politician to create legislation identifying usage of the n-word (nigger) as abusive behavior. Obviously, nothing happened.
Nonetheless, I still believe calling a Black child a nigger or ‘n-word’ leads to trauma, a lowering of self-esteem, and self-respect.
If the world views magnitude as a derogatory inference of inferiority, laziness and immoral behavior, and parents continuously identify their children as such, who do you think they will see when they look in the mirror?
I agree there must be a meeting of the minds in the WIAA. But the problem is more capacious than that.
It is societal, it is medical, it is even religious. And maybe it should be educational as well.
I truly appreciate you bringing this issue forward. But it’s obvious this is about much more than a football or basketball game. It’s time we figured out a way to take the air out of the ball.