Once again Glen Allen High School is trending in the news for something race related. If you remember, Glen Allen High, located in the West End of Henrico County, made unfortunate news this past football season for a “racist parody song” playing during pregame warm ups in their game against John Marshall High School. It was an embarrassing situation, to say the least, for the school and the young man – an African-American student – who ultimately took responsibility for the mistake.
This week, Glen Allen is in the news because some parents and students feel that a video played during a Black History month presentation by VCU Associate professor Ravi Perry was inappropriate because (according to the news reports) the video promotes “white guilt” and made white students feel bad.
I took a moment to watch the video in question: Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race, created by the African American Policy Forum. I recommend that you watch the video too. What I found was truth and reality wrapped up in a four-minute animation. It wasn’t hard-hitting truth. It wasn’t unfair reality. It was just a “kid’s version” of just some (not all) of the challenges African American’s have faced throughout American history.
Now, I was not present at the dialogue, which I heard through social media was very good and thought-provoking; to that end I credit Glen Allen High for doing their Black History Month series. This controversy (which is not really controversy) reinforces to me the following: We need to educate our youth holistically and accurately about America’s racial history. And if done accurately, the truth is that some white people will feel guilty; as some black people will feel angry. There will be a plethora of emotions – that is guaranteed to happen. But sheltering high schools students or any of our youth from the facts of history is not the answer. We need more dialogue on racial inequality in this country. We need to extend it beyond just Black and White. We need to extend it to include gender, sexual preference, and a host of other factors. We need to really educate everyone; our youth particularly, that the only way improvements are made is by acknowledging our complete history and doing our part to address inequality as best we can. By doing so, we need to accept that there will be many emotions and certainly hard feelings going around.
Now all of that is easier said than done. But there are wonderful organizations in Richmond doing this work. The Virginia Center of Inclusive Communities* is one. They do amazing work on teaching our youth about issues of race and equality.
I hope that Glen Allen High School will continue this important conversation because the next step is the most important. I hope other schools pick up this conversation and yes, I hope more and more white parents and students get emotional – (along with black parents, and Latino parents and Asian parents, etc.) but I hope they get emotional to the point where they want to educate their children and not shelter them to a fault.
Last night, I had an amazing conversation about black leadership with a small group from UR Downtown. The talk was centered around a video series I did in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts called Finding Tomorrow. I hope you will take a look at the entire project as a way to start dialogue but I will share with you the video from Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, who is also a professor at VCU.
We need to educate our youth – not shelter them to a fault. #WESEEIT
*I proudly serve on the Richmond Board of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities