Holding a Sacred Space of Many Silences

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - 5:23am
Photo by David Mello

Holding a Sacred Space of Many Silences

I am a young(ish) white woman from New York (a damned Yankee, or so I’ve been lovingly told more than once) who teaches at a diverse community college in Charleston, South Carolina. This has often been the cause of many issues in the classroom. I have been accused of being too young to teach. I have received glaring looks of judgment when I tell my students where I was raised. I have even been told by one of my students that he wanted to write a persuasive essay arguing why women shouldn’t hold positions of power over men. Yup — all this, and an adjunct salary to boot!

I often feel like an outsider (lesser, nonessential, as my job title reminds me) doing this work, which I love so much, in this place, which I have chosen to call my home. I feel this most, however, whenever I discuss issues of race and inequality in the classroom. Many of my students — of all races, ages, and backgrounds — are uncomfortable with applying critical thinking to contemporary issues. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” or an excerpt of Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance spark all kinds of interesting debates and analyses.

When I try to connect the framework of those historical arguments to contemporary issues, though, I often get a lot of push-back. On more than one occasion, my students have announced with utmost certainty that there is no such thing as inequality in our country anymore — no discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, you name it. Those problems were in the past. They have been resolved. The individual is limited only by his or her personal ambition and diligence. Take, for example, Tyler Perry, one student told me just this semester, “He came from the ghetto and now he has, like, millions of dollars.” How does one respond to a point like this?

How does a white Yankee outsider encourage more critical thinking than this to students in an English 101 class — some of whom don’t know who the Nazis were, or what the Jim Crow laws were — when a good portion of contemporary media often makes the very same argument?

The national discourse about race is not limited to but is certainly punctuated by a similar kind of reasoning. Barack Obama was elected president; thus, we live in a “post-racial” society. While not one of my students has ever used the term post-racial, many continue to draw on the same example of one individual narrative as proof of a larger, national one whether it be Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé Knowles.

How do I get my students to care about the stories of people whose names aren’t known or remembered? How do we broach a conversation about people who weren’t actually ever given names because they were not deemed people?

A sculpture by Cornelia Parker, "Anti-Mass," constructed from the remains of a Southern Black Baptist Church destroyed by arsonists.

(Misha Sokolnikov / FlickrSome rights reserved.)

I often feel sorely underequipped in trying to respond to this kind of logic, and have been subject to that sinking feeling that the French call l’esprit de l’escalier. In other words, I come up with a fitting question or rejoinder hours or days later. This is precisely why I was so eager to sign up for "Narratives of Slavery", a graduate class at the College of Charleston taught by a professor with way more education, experience, and expertise on the subject than I might ever hope to have. I would get answers, would be armed with facts, would know how to make history relevant in a way that would allow for my students to make their own connections, ask their own questions. In other words, I had absurdly high hopes.

On the first day of class, I was absolutely floored when the teacher, the man with a PhD and a plan, told the class that we would all have to be kind to one another throughout the semester because this was, after all, a sensitive topic, and we all were sure to say something that would offend someone at least once. Of everything we covered over the course of four months, this may have been by far the most valuable lesson. There is no answer; there is no way to deal with this kind of historical reckoning without an abundance of compassion, patience, and respect.

In order to do this work — to even begin to think about attempting this work — one must acknowledge that this will be a practice of many failures. In order to give voice to the transatlantic slave trade, its long life, and its innumerable repercussions, one must embrace a silence created by two factors: a silence necessary for listening, and a silence necessary to acknowledge that which is unspeakable.

And there’s the rub. Who can afford silence in our contemporary Western culture?

It is no small victory to me when an entire class passes by without a student fiddling around on his cell phone. Devices and social media have given us all an endless supply of data to fill up awkward, uncomfortable silences. In her TED talk, “Connected, but Alone?”, Sherry Turkle says that even mere moments at a stop light become a time to reach for the phone because we are becoming conditioned to fear our own contemplation, fear what might come up during those stretches of silence.

When I have played this speech in class, students nod in recognition of this anxiety. They share stories about pretending to be on the phone while walking down the street so they don’t have to make eye contact with another person. The classroom, which always features at least one person making direct eye contact and leaving room in the conversation for thoughtful reflection, must seem like a nightmare to this new kind of citizen. Add to that level of discomfort the expectation of addressing painful realities about both the past and the present, and it’s no wonder my students want to wash their hands of the whole messy affair. On the other hand, though, this sacred space of silence, of eye contact, of respectful debate is just the place where the necessary conversation about social and legal inequalities must begin.

Lucky for me, teaching in Charleston, South Carolina affords so many opportunities to explore exactly what these silences look and feel like. Local billboards, tours, and media present a narrative about this particular time and place that conveys all the charms of Southern living. This is the story for people with money to spend. This is the story of mostly white tourism. Story number one: Magnolia Gardens, Husk, Rainbow Row, Battery Park, jambalaya, mint juleps, Spanish moss, seersucker suits.

Then, there is another story, one I know all too well, precisely because I am an outsider. This is the story that non-Southerners — specifically those who are raised in the Northeast — tell to assuage any lingering guilt about this country’s horrifying enslavement and subjugation of so many black people. Story number two can be summed up with two sounds, as it is so potent and popular that it has been condensed to its mere essence: a few chords of “Dueling Banjos” from the 1972 film Deliverance, and the slow, throaty, elitist drawl of a long vowel (my personal favorite is any impersonation that John Stewart does of Lindsey Graham on The Daily Show). These sounds represent Southern ignorance, racism, and ineptitude.

Of course, one can’t help but see that this kind of "othering" must also fall upon the largely black populations that still reside in the South — in places like Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and, yes, Chaaawlston, South Carolina. Most of my family and friends from the North — basically good people, mostly liberal, with varying degrees of experience in higher education — routinely crack jokes about the South to me, a person who has chosen to make her home in the South for the last 11 years.

I usually point out that the towns they live in are lily white and/or marked by severe class segregation. This doesn’t always go over well. They are mostly too entrenched in the national discourse about racism, which casts a long shadow over the South, to see their own complicity. It’s an equation that works for them: North equals progressive; South equals intolerant.

Surely, though, there are many more stories to be told by and about the South, about the people who have called or currently call this place home. The search for these stories is a quest to give voice to the silent and, at the same time, a quest to eclipse those narratives that have dominated the discourse for so long.

Before reading works like Caryl Phillips’s The Atlantic Sound, I Belong to South Carolina: South Carolina Slave Narratives edited by Susanna Ashton, and Lawrence Hill’s Someone Knows My Name, I had lived and taught in Charleston for five years without ever once hearing about Judge Waties Waring, the Sugar House, or the Sullivan’s Island “pest houses.” When I really think about this reality, I have to humbly reserve a lot of judgement I pass on my students (and family and friends) when I am condescendingly told, as if I were a 34-year-old insisting on her belief in Santa Claus, that racism does not exist.

I must be kind to those around me, for everyone is not only fighting a hard battle but is also coming out of that battle with their own stories — about themselves, about their culture, about their world. I must be kind because they will surely say something that offends me, and I, in turn, will surely say something equally as offensive to them one day, probably tomorrow.

I must work to hold a sacred space of many silences within the classroom. I must seek out and share forgotten stories, ugly stories, triumphant stories. I must ask difficult questions, both of myself and of others. Most importantly, though, I must not be afraid to fail because sometimes simply asking questions and allowing for silence is the beginning of real change.

If history is the story that we tell ourselves so that we can know who we are, who do we collectively become when that story does not reflect reality? What happens when — to paraphrase one of my favorite outsiders on the inside, a man of many contradictions — these narratives no longer contain multitudes but resonate instead with one hollow image, one sound-bite as punch-line, one name?


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Danielle DeTiberus

lives and teaches in Charleston, South Carolina. Her poem “In A Black Tank Top” was selected by Sherman Alexie to appear in The Best American Poetry 2015. Her work has appeared in Mead, Rattle, The Southeast Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. Read more about her work at www.danielledetiberus.com.

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'Be kind and do not be afraid to fail' - those two things, just those two things can change the world, for the better, if done in that order.

Brilliant, heartfelt essay.

My semester as an adjunct professor teaching Introduction to Composition begins next week and I too, am a northerner here in South Carolina. I am a woman with a history of challenges and a wealth of experience and yet I licked my wounds and spent the holiday season reflecting on my students and my choices and how to walk the walk. Thank you for your post. - Ginn, In Sunny SC

How can I thank enough for your courage and humility in writing this piece. You must be a life changing teacher. I have ordered the two books you mentioned.

Thank you very much for this heartening piece. I am a recent college graduate, born and raised in Minnesota (the Deep North, as it were). I am now studying for a masters in the UK, but I hope to return to the US when I am finished and begin my career as a choral music educator. As I begin the job search, I am very drawn to the South, which has always perplexed and fascinated me. Before this year, I had never been more south than Williamsburg, Virginia, but three separate trips in about six months took me to every southeastern state and completely enchanted me. You see, I realized that as a Northerner I had almost been taught to think of the South as another country and that the prejudice born out of that in me and so many around me was wholly unabashed and unexamined for most. What I saw though, was exactly what you described--a complex web of individual narratives so much bigger than what we call "history". I am very drawn to this and the challenges that you mentioned. I only hope that it is for the right reasons. Your article encourages me that despite the fissures of history, there is a place for a Yankee in the South, and more importantly, there is a place for the South in my story. Thank you again.

I believe that everyone is an outsider. We all look different, believe different things, and act in different ways. My perspective of reality is probably a twisted version of someone else’s. I recently read a quote by Robert Penn Warren that said, “History is blind, but a man is not.” If we learn how to look through a different lens, we can see what is really wrong with our society. The past does not stop us from making a change in the future. We do. Individuals are still too afraid to address issues that occur every day. For me, as a daughter of well off parents, life is easy. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be enslaved, nameless, and without an identity (the one thing you can’t buy, but still can lose). Although our society has come far in the past one hundred years it is still mangled and broken. I still go to school every day and hear people say offensive comments about the way someone looks, dresses, or even talks. It is tragic that people have nothing better to do than to make others feel worse. Maybe one day people will actually wake up and realize that something needs to change.

Thanks for your heartening piece.

I enjoyed your piece - very moving. So.. I hesitate to do more or less than continue the narrative. First, though, I am thinking that we might consider the African traditions of passing on, of change as one labels these feelings, this history as "sacred". Consider a paradigm shift to "spiritual", if you can bear with me. We want to hold all our stories, told from the heart, with respect. Many stories, many points of view - pain and hope. Even as we speak, the narrative changes as we wrap ourselves around each other. So then these past lives, their meaning, what gets carried forward culturally is so very much the spirit of who we are and not fixed ever except by the limitations imposed by one life, one time. Our work is to constantly refashion, rethink, re-experience ... Be mindful.
My own life was shaped by a Yankee father from Salem and a Southern Mother from Pike county, Alabama. They travelled the world together with me . We experienced many cultures and felt our common background in opposition to what was around us. Later settling back here our differences divided us (and the call of service to country during the Vietnam War). Then came the irreconcilable destruction of a criminal sibling... Our house fell, our family divided.
I found love again in a family also wracked by devastating change, a latter day American Indian family who shared their daughter. We, in a sense, walked back the trail of tears as we also are now back east, even sharing your beloved place. Forty-something years on, I am still trying to rebuild our lives in memory, to understand and to reflect on our cultural narrative. Hope fear, respect... All make me feel connected to others and is more important to me as I grow old. But none of this is sacred. It too will be discarded by others. I strive to join my spirit in understanding and a kind of strength, self-respect. But also trying to love, even the undeserving perhaps.
But this is me now, old and past prime but caught up in your story of self-discovery. Thank you.

Today's society moves so fast that people feel they have to say the first thing that comes to mind so they're heard. If people observe the silence Ms. Detiberus discussed, everyone would have a chance to be heard. In our fast-paced society, we tend to only touch the surface and not dive deep, especially on a topic that sparks tons of mixed opinions. If we use the silence, we can properly approach a sensitive topic. We'll be kinder and less offensive to others and we'll have the time and quiet to think about real solutions to present-day problems, like inequality. Based on the South's history, there is still a one-sided stereotypical idea about the South being racist and ignorant. If we think and see the world through stereotypes like this, then the whole country will be ignorant and judging people based on their appearance.

When thinking of the South, a common topic would be the segregation of society. Now in society, it is said that man is created equal. However, this is not true, because racial remarks and slurs are being posted all over the internet and said when race has nothing to do with the issue. If man was truly created equal in society, racial remarks would not be made. As said by Jesse Jackson, "In many ways, history is marked 'before' and 'after' Rosa Parks. She sat down in order that we might all stand up, and the walls of segregation came down." Rosa Parks contributed greatly to equal rights upon man and woman, no matter the race. However, segregation has not gone away completely. The new problem we see in today's society would not be called segregation, rather it is called racism. No longer does an African American man not have the right to do something, but that does not mean that every day of his life is not spent fearing what will happen if he does.

Racism is a constant battle in which every party benefits and is hit with a bullet every now and then. Although people believe that racism is nonexistent, it is still active in our society. One example would be the protest of "Black Lives Matter." Yes, this statement is true, but what about acknowledging that all lives matter and not just one race. I believe that everyone is to be accounted as equal and that they do not need to be seen as inferior or superior to another party like this statement implies. Another example would be when Charleston experienced the catastrophe of the Charleston shooting or the shooting of Walter Scott. This was a difficult time for Charleston, and although our city handled it in a professional way, some people were angry about the issue and blamed race for the cause of the crime. I agree with how Diterberus discussed this issue and think that we do need to talk about race more. Even though it is a sensitive topic to bring up, if people do not discuss the complexity of it, then society will never go through and demolish it for years to come. We also need to be mindful of others and their opinions on the issue as well and not dismiss what they believe in the topic. With this, our nation can grow further together and tie closer bonds on leading issues like this one.

The complexity of technology has left an enormous imprint on the complexity of our society, and vice versa. Technology at first, put on a façade, disguising itself as the final solution to our disjointed nation. When in fact, it has disconnected us from issues such as prejudice, racism, and lack of answers to these problems. But, we must not blame technology for our lack of poetic justice, it is ourselves, the individual, we must blame. Why are we so engulfed in our devices? Sherry Turkle, tackles this question, and the answer is submerged with the wanting to, in a way, detach ourselves from our everyday life. By omitting bits and pieces of what we want to hear and see, we are weeding out all possibilities of much needed change and resolutions. Individually, we must unplug ourselves from our devices, and plug ourselves back into the gift of face-to-face conversations. When unplugging and discussing, we will finally make "eye- contact" with our complex problems: Racism, social inequalities, police brutality etc. Direct interactions will expose deep rooted problems that will in turn lead to long standing solutions that take more than a simple clicking of a "like" button.

The topic of racism is indeed a tough subject to address, not only because it is still very relevant today but because of the history between African Americans and White people. I have grown up in the South all my life, being raised in a middle class white family, I can still recall the number of black students who attended my elementary school or the number of black kids on my sports team. I didn't notice it then, but for most of my life I have been involved in activities and going to school with very few black children. I wasn't being "shielded" or purposely separated ( I was raised in an accepting family) but our society and especially the southern communities have had the habit of separating from people of different color for decades. Unfortunately, these old ways that used to be more common have not died completely. The unfortunate reality is that racism still exist, it's not secret. But I believe that society is slowly growing out of the old ways and moving away from what happened in the past and more towards accepting all races. Maybe it is because I am older now and have learned more about the issue but I think that we have already come such a long way and that it isn't going to stop here. Yes, the South has more racism than other places but I know from observation that we are moving away from racism and more towards acceptance. I hope that one day our children will never judge someone based on their color, beliefs, gender or sexuality and the world will be a better place. This was a very inspiring article to read and it made me think a lot about where I live and the people here. Thank you for sharing such wonderful words.

Having had Ms. DeTiberus as a teacher, I can affirm that she is intentional about carving out time and space in the classroom to have these conversations, these “sacred spaces of silence,” and, as a young person who is still learning important life lessons and forming her own opinions, I agree that they are invaluable.
One of the deadliest forces in human history has been ignorance. It has allowed terrible injustices to occur, inexcusable crimes, the murders of millions. In our modern age, although we might be well-educated and connected people, we underestimate our own capacity for ignorance. We stand by and allow injustice to occur in our country every day.
My church, situated comfortable in the center of Mount Pleasant’s Old Village neighborhood in Charleston, SC, has a registered congregation of over two thousand people. Of course, I don’t see nearly that many on a regular basis, but of the couple hundred that I do see at church nearly every week, I can think of only one black person. So it must have been difficult for my pastor this past Sunday, when he stood up to preach on racism in America in a room that clearly demonstrated the tendency of our society to fall into divisions based on color.
For people who are not part of a minority, it can be uncomfortable to hold a conversation about racism. I often find myself doubting that I have any authority or “right” to speak to an experience that I, based on my own experience, know nothing about. But when we do not talk about it, silence divides. This is the creation of ignorance.
To have these difficult conversations, on the other hand, is a triumph—the fact that we can and want to discuss the problem, to work toward true equality, shows that we are healing. This is a piece of a much larger conversation that will be critical to how we, as a people, define ourselves in the future.

In repsonse to Ms. DeTiberus’ focus on race, uncomfortable situations, and the stereotypical south, the South’s stereotypical racist reputation will probably never recede or disappear. As an African- American female in Charleston I would say that racism is still very much a problem here in the South. Events such as a white cop killing a black male, or a white extremist killing several black members of a church add more wood to the fire of racism in society, reminding everyone that the South still has racists. Although racism exists with other minority groups in the South, African Americans are the most targeted and receive a lot of backlash. The activist group ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not a punch to other races, but is merely a group recognizing that black lives are meaningless to other races, not just today, but also in the past. Is there a solution? No. Racism is not something people are born knowing about. Racism is a learned behavior and because the South has cultivated racial tensions for decades, racism still lies deep in the roots of some families. The North was egalitarian, and had little racial problems, so therefore racism is not a stereotype for those states.

Racism is a live, rabid beast. It engulfs classrooms, leaving an awkward vibe in its wake. Whenever the topic of racism is brought up or even when teacher says slightly racist thing, students glance at one another, unsure how to feel and react. With all the "sensitivity training" and black history month TV specials, many people still refuse to believe that racism is still alive and well. The difference between Generation Z and my parents, the Baby Boomers, is insusceptible to the world around the because of the early exposure to horrific topics. Constantly, through phones or laptops or however media is filtered to the masses, news reporters scream about death, tragedy and sadness. Just like beautiful places you drive past every day, you can become apathetic to the racial injustice going on in the world around us. This leads to people thinking racial problems are a problem of the past. History class raves about how America,the amazing country, has defeated its history. The only way to remove ourselves from the group mentality of the internet is to unplug ourselves and see the world for how it is.

While growing up in South Carolina, notoriously known by outsiders for it's prejudice against blacks, it is easy to blend into the daily culture and not look further into the real problems affecting our state and nation. I've grown accustomed to going to a school with a 1:10 ratio of blacks to whites in each of my classes. I've grown accustomed to not having any black teachers and having distinct tables where races do not mix at lunch. I've grown accustomed to most of the janitorial staff being black. Worst of all however, is that it's become customary to participate in or overhear racist jokes from time to time. Even though these distinct prejudices are occurring, I, like your students, would most likely tell a teacher that racism does not still exist. In this day in time it is rare to find anyone who labels themselves racist and the majority of people want equality for all; but no matter how supportive anyone is, these segregations at our school continue to happen. When discussing this problem of segregation in classes, people become very reserved, just like you mentioned. Especially being in a classroom with only caucasian students and teachers, students become quiet or revert to their phone in order to avoid the mistake of saying something insulting. I myself fall victim to this problem. It seems like there is no easy way to fix this diversity that seems to unfold at our school. It is especially hard to create solutions to this problem when our discussion's involve no black individuals. For example, one solution that has been introduced is enforcing assigned seating at lunch so that all nationalities are mixed at tables. However, this seems to make problems even worse since it is forcing something that does not naturally want to occur. The only solution that will create a positive outcome without any chance of disapproval ,like you said, is to educate ourselves by taking classes, reading stories on the topic, and speaking of the true history that occurs.

Thank you for your story and viewpoint on this issue,
Eden Teichman

This is a really interesting article. I think over generalization is very prominent in our modern society especially since we have to deal with more information today than ever before. With all the media coverage that was given to the severely corrupt Ferguson police force and the Emmanuel AME church last year it's impossible to deny that racism isn't still alive in 2016. Unfortunately people in our modern society are very easily distracted. It can be very easy to convince yourself of a certain viewpoint because all of the information on the internet, but we need to look at society with a less emotionally driven point of view so that we can see what progress really needs to be made. This would really allow us to keep our minds open to other ideas which just might benefit society for the better in the future.

I believe that it is important to read pieces like these, to acknowledge which topics have become topics unable to be discussed in classrooms or group settings, and the silence that goes along with issues such as race or sexual orientation which, as Ms. Detibberus said, many people choose to ignore. It is important to recognize that even though we may not be speaking about them does not mean they are not real issues in today's society. I think often times people, myself included, believe that if you ignore a problem, pretend it is not there, then it will disappear entirely. We become so focused on ignoring the facts that when a problem arises, we are not equipped with the tools to talk or work to fix the issue. I see it time and again in class when people work around difficult subjects, never saying what they mean because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing or upsetting someone. In this piece, Ms. Detib has created a jumping of point, a place for conversation to fill the silence these issues of race and injustice have left. I admire her ability to evoke thought and reflection about the way people in the south, in their homes, between their friends, and in their schools face these issues as they inevitably come up as we study the world around us.

I believe that without diversity, this world would be nothing. We would all fade into the oblivion that follows the empty stares of same-ness. It is sad to see that, although we have grown to be more accepting, the issues of race, stereotypes, and verbal abuse still plague our nation. As a whole, we continue to fail to see the beauty in every person. We continually focus on what we believe this person is like, and do not take the time to get to understand them. This prevents us from fully seeing people for who they are. I see people everyday, whether it be at school, at work, or simply walking down the sidewalk, that shield their face from the world. I can't help but wonder why. Does this person feel persecuted for being themselves? Do they not feel comfortable in their own skin? These cruel names that society assigns to different types cultures and groups of people work as agents that dehumanize them. They take the place of their names, their history, and their beliefs. And all for what? We should all take a moment to think before we speak. A breath that is long enough to analyze the situation and to accurately decide the path to approach. Every person is valuable and in now way less worthy than yourself. It takes a stronger person to stand up for what is right, than to ignore it and walk away.

-Michael Ashley Seay

America as a whole has gotten much better since the slave era. I almost feel as if the idea of racism has turned into a big joke. I can only recall one or two occasions where a person has called someone out specifically for there color or background. Nowadays, any form of racism we hear is from a comedian or a class clown trying to get a laugh. Is this a bad thing? Many people are a little angered by the racial slurs. But are our racial slurs created so that we can simply laugh it off? I think that making people laugh at what people say rather than being angered is progressive and is a step in the right direction. The use of the "n-word" is used to call someone a friend instead of being used as a hate word like it was years ago. I believe that the only reason that we see a revival of racism is because we keep believing that racism is rampant. We fail to see the light in the ounce of darkness. The movements like "black lives matter" could be causing more harm than good because it is reminding everybody that racism is a problem instead of a 'thing of the past.' If everybody took this topic a little more lightly, maybe we would see racism as a thing of the past.

Thank you for your essay, it provoked much thought.
-Adam Riesberg

Evidence of racism exists all around us. Our society has had a lot of experience with dealing with the aftermath of issues that arise from racism - for instance, the unrest in Ferguson, and the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. However the effort to dig to the source of the problem is weak. Taking the time to really discuss in depth this issue of still-existent racism often makes people uncomfortable or angry, and the conversation gets thrown to the back-burner for a more convenient time, as the problem continues to grow. As we let these events and feelings pass, we are simply putting a bandaid on the ever growing problem of racism. We make temporary solutions, but don’t look at the big picture.
Whether we like to think it or not, people do commonly associate certain thoughts and feelings with people who are different than us. No one is born a racist, and these stereotypes are picked up from parents, friends, and other media outlets. If we actually took the time to open our minds and fully understand others, who indeed may look different than us, we would be living in a happier place. However for any change to happen, we as a society first need to come to terms with the fact that racism still exists.

In the society we live in today everybody is allowed to have a strong opinion on subjects. Lots of people speak their minds without truly seeing all sides to the subject. So many people have become so closed minded and will not accept other people's opinions that goes against there own. If we all would stop and be silent then we might actually get something done or accomplish something properly. It is important to listen to others because most all of us have good ideas about somethings, but we might not have the right idea about everything. That's why it's important for us to listen to each other and work as a team, not as individuals on important matter, so we can all accomplish something, not just one person.

Reading this, I feel a familiar mixture of guilt and relatability that I often feel when discussing racism, minorities, or just prejudice and injustice in general. I have the benefit of never feeling the worst of what discrimination truly is. I am, after all, a white Christian living in the South. At the same time, however, I always feel a little out of place. I am not a native Southerner, but rather a Northerner, and I’m not Protestant— I’m Catholic. I’m not from an old immigration British family. My paternal grandmother is Puerto Rican while my paternal grandfather is Mexican. I’m not upper middle class— I’m middle middle class. This nice combination allows me to think that I’m not really at the top of the food chain and that there is always someone ‘luckier’ than I am when I am in fact ridiculously fortunate. It sort of allows me to sleep at night.
I feel that my well rounded ties to minorities and not-quite-as-good-as-it-gets groups allows me to connect more with people who are actually experiencing injustice. This feeling of having a multi-faceted identity that gives you a connectedness without the consequence of oppression is a step toward something that the United States should be about. I hope to live to see the day when I don’t have to feel guilty about sharing cultural aspects with people who are discriminated against for that very identity.
Everything about listening and considerate is certainly imperative, and I guess this rant is a bit of a case in point, but it kept sitting in the back of my mind and I thought I ought to say it.

Often times in our lives we fear self realization. We fear the quiet moments where, if we go unstimulated for too long, we might actually come to evaluate our lives and our character. This silence discussed in this blog post represents the much needed change in our world today. While it would be much easier to not address the issue of racism and segregation, or even to say it no longer exists, the harsh reality is that it's a problem that has yet to be solved. But I think the bigger issue, as said here, is society's instinct to ignore it. Maybe, if we don't acknowledge the problem, it won't be there? Maybe if we stare down at our phones in social situations, we won't have to engage? This is so very much the problem with the social aspect of life. We can't just turn off the intense need for distraction and open our eyes for just a little while, to see the very REAL parts of the world. If we were all more capable of embracing the silent moments, instead of hiding from them, we could use these new ideas to bring significant change. Reading articles like this are important because they allow us to open our minds and think about these very real topics that a lot of times aren't openly discussed.

-Haley Schmidt

I'm fortunate in that I am a part of a family with members that hail from an abundance of different regions of the country and of the globe. Though I've lived with my parents and my sister for my entire life thus far, I have family in New York, Florida, Vermont, Tennessee, Georgia California, along with other states. Among my relatives, one can find roots that include Irish, Czechoslovakian, English, Polish, French, German, Scandinavian and even--from long, long ago--American Indian. I am also fortunate in that the heritage linked in these nationalities have not only been preserved, but proudly shared with me. Each time I look through old pictures and documents with my grandparents or my great grandmother, I watch as they can't mask the joy and pride and love they possess in their ancestry. During these reminiscent visits, I can't avoid being puzzled by the idea that race could ever be used as a means to persecute. As a child, especially, I could only comprehend being intrigued and appreciative of the opportunity to experience other people's lifestyles. My great aunt and uncle in the upper peninsula of Michigan certainly live differently than I do, and that's fantastic, to me. If the value of singularity in past and present customs was to be lost and people found no incentive in expressing their personal traditions, the world would become overwhelmingly dull. It is when people ignore the rewards in learning about the people living in the same nation, on the same planet as they are, that regional differences become sources of embarrassment, signs that glaringly read "UNUSUAL" and that equate foreign concepts with bad or dangerous ones. When people learn to suppress their selfish instincts to reject unfamiliar behaviors, appearances, or tendencies, they return the worth that racial and cultural identity deserve. Just like currency, diversity is entirely dependent upon people's belief that it actually does has value. I agree with you: if we are to keep this value from plummeting, we must shed our defensive shields and accept the vulnerability involved with learning about those who coexist with us.

Being one of the biggest outsiders in the places I call my own (school, city, country), I haven't exactly been taught what to think about segregation and racism in today's society. Maybe because I don't listen to what everyone else thinks; probably because I avoid the conversation altogether. Racism, as I see it, is one of the remaining puzzle pieces. Its a piece no one wants to put in the puzzle, one that makes us want to buy a completely new puzzle. A puzzle that doesn't have/need that particular puzzle piece; Segregation. But, you see, I wasn't really forced to pay much attention to this puzzle piece until now. I was born in Brazil and lived there for half of my life (being at the ripe old age of 16), and Brazilian aren't necessarily racist.. at all. Where you're born, what the color of your skin, or level of education. We were all just Brazilian. And ever year I go back to realize that, there, I still don't have to think about that puzzle piece, because it doesn't exist. Its difficult to think about how here in America people are hateful towards other people because they don't necessarily think or believe in the same things, because they don't necessarily look the same or act the same. And its not so difficult to think that in Brazil biracial marriages were never a cause of controversy and that "mixed" children were never put under that category and never had or will have to suffer the weight of this categorizing system. Economically, Politically, Educationally, and in any other governing area I could not compare the U.S. and Brazil, but in the area concerning Humanism.. Brazil has definitely got America beat. This piece of art written by the amazing creative arts teachers at SOA has brought great light to the difficulty it is to discuss segregation in society today. I could go on and on about the difficulties that people,"Americans by choice," go through on a daily basis and how it would never compare to slavery, because it wouldn't. And no doubt that America has come a long way since then, but lately it seems that this area of discomfort is only growing bigger and so is the gaping hole in the puzzle. No one is going to finish that puzzle anytime soon, or so it seems. Because no one is willing to discuss it, and some people are over-discussing it. There really is no right or wrong answer here, but if no one is willing to provide an answer then this puzzle will remain... a puzzle with an obvious missing puzzle piece that everyone can see very obviously see with their obviously brilliant minds, but still a puzzle that will remained unfinished.

I agree with Mrs. Detiberus. Silence must grow and respects must be given to those who have been attacked by any form of discrimination. But, there is a time when silence must shift to unified voices. Discrimination is everywhere, more particularly, on social media. We live in the age of technology. Millennials are more libel to search up the meaning of discrimination on merriamwebsterdictionary.com than they are to ask their grandparents or even parents, who have discriminated or were discriminated at some point in their life. Politicians who bully one another on national tv, constant airings of African Americans being arrested by white cops, makeup companies selling nude lipstick toned perfectly for caucasian buyers, and of course Donald Trump; these are all examples of discrimination occurrences. Maybe it's not just Mrs. Detiberus's students who are oblivious to this modern-day social darwinism. This "silence" that we speak of could be our natural coping device to block all this madness out. No more. I pray my generation and future ones subdue the hate that others feel so necessary to place on others. History must not repeat itself as it has during the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and now possibly the Syrian refugees. I believe respects must be fully given when peace has been made. I believe the future should look back on the past with promises to not repeat. I believe the silence has gone on for too long. I believe a stand must be taken now and forever to educate and rid the world of any nativist or any racial issues. Thank you.

Racism is and will be an issue in society until the day we die. I agree that it is a sensitive subject because you never know someones beliefs and opinions on the topic. Growing up I never really realized how much controversy the topic brings. I went to a dominant African American elementary school but I never saw myself as different from anyone at that school. I grew up in a white middle class family and until middle school/ high school I never saw the real effects of racism. The North may look upon the South as cruel because of our history and that is understandable. But you have to realize that it was history and not everyone that lives in the South agrees with it. I believe that it is a topic that needs to be discussed because of the history behind it but also because it educates children on the subject. It shows people that all men are created equal and yeah there might be differences and conflicts but in the end we are equal.

Loved you article!

As a student living in Charleston, South Carolina, I can defend that racism is something that is lightly brushed over as if it never happened. When it is mentioned, it is only the factual information and none of the detailed, individual stories. South Carolina history books make such broad generalizations about everything to cover up its horrific past that this “history” becomes so far from what actually happened that it is almost a lie. The past year in South Carolina has seen what can happen when these truths are hidden away with the multiple shootings that have taken place terrifyingly recently. The longer we wait to begin openly discussing the past and understanding previous motives, the longer we wait for the racism and horrific events to cease.

I have never experienced or seen racism firsthand. I consider myself lucky. As much as people would like to think that there is no discrimination (not just based on the pigmentation of one's skin, but also on gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, or really anything) in our day and age, it is still present. Discrimination will always likely be present, maybe not in the same context as it displays itself now. Throughout history and ancient history it has been present. It is one of the more uglier natures of human beings. That doesn't mean, though, that it should be tolerated. There will always be the us vs. them mentality whether it on the family friend or school or even nation level. Now this mentality doesn't have to be bad. It's only natural to group oneself with who one associates with. It can be a way to unify a people or show pride in one's origins or culture, but it is when this mentality is used to inflict hatred because someone is different, then it is misused. It is important to know history in order to learn from the world's past mistakes, but is is another to dwell on and punish those for mistakes they did not make. There is such a large focus on racism in the US, on ways to combat it and on the pain it has inflicted. Maybe this is just me being an idealist, but I think focusing so much on it only amplifies it. It should be discussed so that it will not be repeated and so that it doesn't develop rampantly in new forms. We call black people African Americans and white people white. I think if we are going to use such terminology to reference someone's skin color or ethnicity, I wonder why white people are not called European- American. Why not just drop the first part of both (and of other various forms such as Asian-American and Latin-American) and call everyone Americans because that is our home now. If we referenced everyone on their ancestors' origins we would all call each other African Americans because didn't people originate in sub-Saharan Africa. I think that children in their sweet ignorance do not differentiate between skin color in a negative and discriminatory way until someone points it out and says that there is such a thing as racism because children are not born with a preconceived notion that the color of one's skin has some sort of say on how one should be treated; it is society that imprints that idea on people.