On the road with the Un-Fair Campaign
I want to share a delightful “Un-Fair Campaign” activity that I recently participated in! It began in mid-February when Karen very excitedly came into my office after speaking with a friend of hers, Andy Wolfe. He is a teacher at Superior High School for the journalism class that produces an award-winning student newspaper. The students were struggling with how to understand and cover the “Unfair Campaign” and the issues it sheds light on about racism and white privilege. Andy invited me to come and speak to the class and answer some of their questions.
So on March 7, Karen and I headed over the bridge, stopping on the way to pick up my friend Annie Kennedy in West Duluth. Annie is 73 years old, African American, raised in Mississippi and I just knew the students would love to hear from her!
This was just a week after the media coverage of the anticipated white supremacists in Duluth. I was surprised to learn that several of the students had come to Duluth’s Civic Center and the lift bridge to observe and document the events of that Saturday morning. They were attentive and engaged during our class time, asking good questions about the campaign and racism.
My mission with them was to demonstrate how issues of oppression are connected, increase their understanding of why a domestic violence organization would care about racism, and provide language and definitions for the terms that have been bandied about since the campaign started. Of course, I brought them their own power and control wheels and teen dating violence wheels so we could talk about power in a context relevant to their lives. I also brought them their own set of the three Un-Fair Campaign posters for further discussion. They plan to present them for formal adoption by the Superior High School Administration. I talked about the wonderful, positive effect of cracking open all these conversations that go from taboo to more comfortable and, finally, the ability to embrace as familiar. I focused on the theme, “If you see racism, SPEAK UP, break the Silence,” and how racism, just like violence against women, depends on silence to continue. Both are about power over, where someone is up and someone is down. And that makes the campaign a perfect fit with our mission.
Annie shared her story, relating how she had to keep silent for many years about being a victim of domestic violence and urged the students to never let it into their lives. She wowed them with the spirit of a preacher while talking about how our community did not make space for the white supremacists! And she left them with a first-hand account of her experiences as a young girl with racism and education plus her experiences living in Duluth.
They were curious about reverse racism but quick to understand that, with the understanding of systems and power, it can’t flip – it is not really possible. Several students told me at the end of class that our presentation had really changed their minds about the campaign. One young man said, “I was negative about the campaign because all I heard was negative but now I see that no one has been called racist and that we need to talk.” Feedback from Mr. Wolfe included the “ah-hah” moments about reverse racism and the impact of Annie’s stories about fear for her family in her own community. The Superior High School April Newspaper will include articles on the Un-Fair Campaign and I promise to share my copy!