Thursday, July 01, 2010

Pondering the teachable moment when justice is denied…

A bitch read this news item on Stltoday.com and it really touched my heart.

A woman of color, denied admission into Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State College), is being given and honorary bachelor’s degree.

60 years ago Mary Jean Price graduated from high school and applied to college.  She applied to her local state school…travel to the state’s historically black college, Lincoln University, was too expensive.  But Southwest Missouri State did not admit students of color and Price was denied admission.

Mary Jean Price went on with her life.

But she never became the school teacher she had planned to be…could have been…should have been had justice not been denied.

Now Missouri State is giving Mary Jean Price an honorary degree.

While some speak of how far we’ve come a bitch thinks that the teachable moment within this story has more to do with the limits of gestures when justice has been denied.

To learn from this and perhaps give it meaning beyond a terrible wrong done to Mary Jean Price and all the nameless people of color who were denied admission to college because of racial discrimination, we must apply this lesson to the present.

Making shit right after doing someone wrong ain’t easy…thus, we should strive to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them.

So, along with honorary degrees and public expressions of regret, maybe we should add a call to question some of our present day shit…question the current popularity of immigration legislation that empowers and encourages police to question people’s citizenship based on their appearance…question the anti-knowledge opposition to comprehensive sex education and who it benefits…and question a society that where LGBT people can be fired or denied housing for being LGBT people.

Question...debate...and then challenge.

History is more than an opportunity to see how far we have come.  It is an opportunity to learn about the past, question the present based on that knowledge and work to make progress in the here and now.

In 1950, Mary Jean Price was denied admission to a college where today more than 600 black students now pursue their degrees.

And I’m not pondering how far we’ve come.

Social justice demands that we question what can we do right now to impact what people will write about us in 60 years.

Will our actions inspire regret and gestures...

...or respect and honors?

2 comments:

NancyP said...

True enough.

I AM glad that her attempt to break a new path was finally honored. The Civil Rights era generations are aging, and it is good to visit the stories of the not-so-famous. Ordinary people make history.

Dusty said...

Well said Shark Fu, there is nothing I can add except I agree with everything you wrote. I am happy she finally was honored, even if it took the bastards forever and a day.