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Tuesday, August 06 2019

I really should just stop opening it, and yet I’m drawn to it out of morbid curiosity like when passing a train wreck.  The disgraced Southern Poverty Law Center’s regular magazine “Teaching Tolerance” that is sent out to public schools across America arrived in my inbox this last week.  And their featured “Moment?”  A piece entitled, “Let’s Talk About Baltimore.”

Of course I knew what it was going to be before I even opened it, but like I said, I couldn’t help myself.  And the author Cory Collins didn’t disappoint:

Regardless of the circumstances facing cities like Baltimore, the president’s pattern of behavior reveals a preoccupation with cities mostly populated and led by people of color. It’s hard to imagine him calling a predominately white, Midwestern town “dangerous and filthy.” So when a person in power repeatedly says that people of color—be they athletes like Colin Kaepernick or members of Congress—shouldn’t be allowed to criticize the United States, then proceeds to target cities populated and led by people of color with negative rhetoric, that is a tacit declaration of who counts as American, and who is allowed to speak up. When a person in power regularly uses language of disease and danger to refer to places predominantly inhabited by people of color, that’s not a dog whistle. It’s a pattern of racist rhetoric that humanity has seen time and time again. 

I get it.  I understand that the Southern Poverty Law Center makes oodles of money off of exacerbating racial strife.  I am fully aware that it has grown into a massively wealthy “non-profit” scam by fanning the flames of racial discord for revenue.  And thus, Mr. Collins surely knows where his bread is buttered.  I don’t have any false delusions that this piece, nor this magazine as a whole, is actually interested in helping teachers like me navigate the racial and cultural challenges that their rhetoric, as well as the President’s, generates. 

But I still can’t get past that first sentence clause: “Regardless of the circumstances facing cities like Baltimore.”  No.  Just no.  This is the real problem, isn’t it?  If you truly come from a motivation that says, “I want to see my fellow man thrive,” you don’t gloss over the circumstances facing them.  You confront them.  You deal with them.  You choose to talk about them, discuss and debate them, understand them, and conclude the best way to approach and address them to change them, don’t you?

You don’t do the easy thing, which is to ignore the circumstances and write a whole piece dedicated to convincing teachers that they need to convince their students the guy you politically disagree with is laying the foundation for the next Holocaust (yes, that was implied in this piece).  That may serve your political ends, but it does nothing for the people of Baltimore.

Former Baltimore resident and Washington Examiner reporter Ellie Bufkin lamented this same reality recently:

[W]hat good does it do to pretend Baltimore is not a rat- and rodent-infested mess? It is. In fact, Baltimore’s homicide rate is so high that under current U.S. asylum laws, the residents could qualify for refugee status in the United States. The population of Baltimore decreased by nearly 8,000 residents between 2017 and 2018 as residents fled the nightmare-like conditions of their neighborhoods.

Think about that.  Under our current laws for asylum seekers, life is so bad in Baltimore, Maryland, that its residents could claim that status if they weren’t already American citizens.  That is what should motivate us.  That is what we should first find unacceptable.  That is what deserves addressing and discussing in our classrooms.  Isn’t it?

Go back to that paragraph from Collins’ piece, and realize if it was truly motivated by a desire to improve the lives of our fellow countrymen, shouldn’t it have read:

“Regardless of the President’s inflammatory and often times unhelpful rhetoric, the conditions in Baltimore are tragic and must be addressed rather than ignored.”

But that’s not what this article was about.  That’s not what the SPLC is about.  And that’s the real shame here.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 09:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email