When I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree and an education major in 1968, the schools in Duval County, Florida, were still segregated. All Black schools were on one side of the Arlington River, whites on the other.
This was odd to me, but I had been subject to segregation issues when traveling from New Jersey, my home at the time, to Florida to attend college. I was astounded at seeing whites-only, colored-only water fountains while traveling through the Carolinas and Georgia.
I applied and was accepted to teach in all-Black schools. During the first day of orientation I asked a Black teacher: “Cynthia, when do we get our new books?”
She looked me in the eye and stated: “We get used books Mr. Marasco; the white schools get the new books.”
After two years, the schools were desegregated and I moved to a formerly all-while school, as I was tapped to be a facilitator working with white teachers to become comfortable with teaching Black children. At one of the training sessions, a white teacher blurted out: “I am not teaching no Ns (the N-word).” Despite hours of counseling, she would not grow. I recommended she be let go and she was.
My next degree, a masters in teaching in elementary education, was earned on a Teacher Corps scholarship working in Detroit inner-city schools which were mostly Black. This cadre of dedicated teachers was a profound example of how committed and colorblind educators were able to teach children from poverty populations with success. Most of the students’ academic performance increased two to four grade levels in two years. Most of my students were reading close to the fifth-grade level when they moved to third grade. Minority students succeed academically when given access to professional resources.
For example, The Education Trust reports in “Funding Gaps 2018,” school districts with the greatest concentrations of Black, Latino or Native American students receive around $1,800 less per student than districts educating the least students of color. Instead of whites going into overdrive against CRT, they need to tell their legislators: “This is not acceptable.”
That was then and this is now: In one of far too many recent hate crimes against minorities, ABC4Utah reported this comment by a witness in a Cottonwood Heights shop: “And instead of being like a normal decent human repeating it, he just immediately turned on her and starts berating her asking why she can’t speak good English, what she is doing, why is she here, racial slurs, other swear words, stuff I’m not going to repeat.”
Hispanics, Blacks, Jews, Asians and LGBT citizens have been subject to this in our times, here in Utah.
The greatest danger in misunderstanding any group is to use one example of bad behavior and project on the entire group. If a white child uses a racial slur, does that state all white children are racists? Of course not.
But politicians then and now have used/use this discredited tactic. Ronald Regan’s campaign was punctuated by accusing Blacks of taking advantage of welfare while, at the same time, 60% of welfare cases were non-Black. Donald Trump copied this narrative during his campaign and into his presidency. Their narratives have the effect of driving disgruntled citizens to take violent actions.
And the point here is? Ifs the citizenry remains unaware of the disgraceful actions suffered by minorities, there can be no understanding of their pain, no healing. Children need to know the history of our failings in order to gain an understanding of the pain our predecessors experienced.
They need to say: “Oh My God, who would do that to other human beings?”
Terry Marasco, Salt Lake City, is a businessman and community activist.