Bob Strong’s recent letter offering his de-contextualized, cherry-picked version of the abolition of slavery (“Historical facts versus opinions,” Aug. 12) and Brad Cossette’s letter calling the District 81 Equity policy “divisive” (“‘Equity policy’ still divisive,” Aug. 19) show basic ignorance of the experiences of non-whites in the U.S. and of American history. Views such as theirs perpetuate the racially-biased version of U.S. history still taught in many schools and inflame divisions in our society.
Strong’s argument is that when governments passed laws in the 19th and 20th centuries making slavery illegal, the practice simply went away. Historical facts show that slavery lived on in the American South, (e.g., Douglas Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name.”) Reconstruction-era Southern legislatures criminalized standing on street corners and after a show trial, sold convicts’ labor to mine owners and others. Worldwide, slavery has been replaced by human trafficking, particularly of women and children used to this day for sweated labor and sex, notably in Europe and the U.S.
What’s it like to be non-white in the U.S.? Aggrieved people like Strong and Cossette can’t possibly know. Blindness to racism is the privilege that whites enjoy but rarely own. I’m a white woman; my adopted daughter is African American and attended Spokane Public Schools. She never experienced racism violently, but twice she suffered disproportionate discipline that, when I challenged it, school officials acknowledged. Hurtful, off-handed comments by white students happened regularly. For her, racism will always be her lived reality. School policies and updated school curricula can combat it, but never completely as long as willful ignorance abounds.
Ann Le Bar