A blog called “In the Open,” dedicated to issues for scholarship and libraries, is a logical place to engage in the ongoing and vital discussions about diversity and inclusion in our libraries and on our campuses. Following the lead of April Hathcock’s post from last month, I offer this reflection to continue the conversation:
Many years ago, soon after we were married, my wife and I spent a year as house parents for a group of academically-talented teenage boys from disadvantaged backgrounds who, were they not part of the program that put them in better schools, would have had little chance of getting into college. The house was, to say the least, ethnically and racially diverse. One afternoon, one of our seniors came home upset and with his knuckles bleeding. Corry, as I will call him, had been in a fight because another boy in the school had called him the N-word. The details of the fight, as well as his distress at the result, convinced me that Corry had behaved as well as could be expected in the circumstances, but there were complex consequences. For me, the most profound part of the whole episode was when I sat listening to a conversation between Corry and his father. His father asked Corry if he understood why being called that word had upset him so, since it was common enough in music and on the basketball court. When Corry admitted that he did not, his father explained the context and history of that epithet in his own life, which I think opened Corry’s eyes. I know that it opened mine.