Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. - Don Henley
This is a post in progress subtitled, "Oakland: Are we really the new Brooklyn or the new Topeka?" This post accompanies three posts on my photography blog at Bryan Farley Photography. (Mayor's Lives Matter, From Me to OUSD, and one more).
I referenced a 1956 Life Magazine article on school segregation for the main blog posts title. "Voices of the White South," one of a series, revealed a more nuanced view of Southern school segregation. (Some of those historical voices might sound familiar if heard in Oakland today.) Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White documented South Carolinians for the article "Voices of The White South." You can see her colored (not black and white) pictures and read White Southerners' quotes.
When I was younger, I watched Civil Rights documentaries and wondered what I would have done had I lived during Jim Crow segregation or slavery. Would I have been an Abolitionist? Would I have risked my life for the Little Rock Nine? Now that I have two children in Oakland public schools, I continue asking how I can do the right thing.
How can you be Oaklandish and White?
Last month at Oakland's Mayoral Inauguration, I noticed one protestor's sign that reads, "It's not the bad apples. It's the tree." I am probably part of the problem, but I don't know if I am the apple or the root. Who are the bad apples? Who plants the seeds and where are the roots?
Where is the learning tree?
Yesterday (2/21) was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. During one of his speeches to his community, he said "You can't hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can't hate your origin and not end up hating yourself." I wonder if my white Oakland brothers and sisters love their roots enough to love the tree... or do we just love a branch?
Do we love too small? Do we love our Time, Treasure and Talent more than we love Black Lives?
Question: Why do we white folks send so many of our white kids to certain OUSD schools or certain private schools? Why do we ask each other whether we should move to a different district? Why do we invest in a private school that looks a certain way? A white way?
The answer: Black Lives Matter (but read the fine print). We care how a school looks. We would rather spend 30,000 dollars on private school tuition than send a white kid to a poor urban school and spend the same 30,000 dollars at the PTA.
The grass is always whiter.
Irony is not dead, it is just lost on us middle aged folks. My 8 year old son read the irony in the above photo with the white person standing next to the black police officer on the corner. The chalk reads "No More Police." It took me months before I noticed that "Police V Ferguson, (MO)" sounds similar to "Plessy V. Ferguson."
We know our school system is unequal. We know that we do not have equity. We even relinquished the myth of equal opportunity. The Plessy V Ferguson standard is dead as is the Brown V Board standard. Perhaps the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary because some of us forgot.