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Daryl Grigsby: Freedom from prejudice

Daryl Grigsby | Other Voices

When some white Americans talk about ‘freedom’, or ‘rights’, I get nervous. I get nervous because for some whites, those words do not apply to people of darker complexion, people beyond ‘our’ borders, or people with different sexual identities. ‘Freedom’ and ‘rights’ in their lexicon is about freedom to practice religions of judgement, or the right to own automatic weapons regardless the human cost.

Our local anti-CRT group, which goes by a name you assume supports equality, believes the opposite. They opposed CRT because they believe if white children are taught George Washington owned slaves, or that 46 year-old Thomas Jefferson impregnated (I could use another word here) his 14 year-old slave; they would feel bad about themselves. Rather than see the truth about our nation as the foundation for honesty and work toward transformation, they think truth makes children hate America.

Here is the ultimate irony, while we squabble over CRT (which actually does not exist), the real issue is we are allowing racism to persist in our society and in our schools. Far as I know, no white families have relocated to other cities because they were demoralized by historical facts. Yet, I know of several black, Hispanic, or bi-racial families whose children were so racially harassed by classmates in school that they have left our local school systems or moved out of the County.

Apparently last year, in the midst of political acrimony, racial tensions, and virulent debates over the pandemic; student racial harassment was at unprecedented levels. There is hope that this year harassment will decrease. Frankly, while this occurs in our schools, it is a community problem. The perpetrators, bystanders, and victims are all our children and our future. There is harm to all three parties; immediate to the victims; and more long-term and subtle to the perpetrators and bystanders.

Further, children did not invent this behavior; they absorbed it from earlier generations. Local historical records speak of a ‘significant’ black population in the early days of our County. There were black churches, one of which I heard ‘mysteriously’ burned down. Some who know the history say that white hostility caused many of the black residents to leave for Sacramento and elsewhere. A black friend of mine who works with the elderly relayed to me that more than one of his clients told him, ‘in the old days we used to run people that looked like you out of town.’ I know of a former black resident of Nevada County, who moved here full of hope and talent, yet, left after multiple drive-by ’N-word’ taunts. Is it an accident we began with a ‘significant’ black population and now are the whitest or second-whitest county in California?

I’m convinced most people in our County are good, caring, informed, people who want a good life for their family in a welcoming community. At this year’s Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by Color Me Human, I spoke with a young Caucasian woman who moved away because of her experience with racial intolerance here. I told her I thought there were more good people than not. Her reply to me was, ‘if that’s true the good people need to show up.’

I have to agree with her. We need to ‘show up’ for our children and our community. The idea that some children and teenagers are racially harassed to the point school becomes almost intolerable is completely unacceptable. Can the schools do more on this issue? Yes. Must every family and every community member do more? Absolutely.

Those who have attended Nevada Joint Union HS District Board meetings told me some Board members oppose any initiative or project that includes the word ‘equity’. There is an election in November, and I would urge anyone with interest in the future of our County to pay attention to the words and deeds of the candidates. That is, if you can hear their words, for as a recent Union editorial pointed out, some of the candidates for School Board, including some incumbents, refuse to participate in open public debates.

On both sides of my family, decades ago slave masters raped their slave property. Their children are my ancestors. Because of that, I have a light complexion. I attended all-black public schools in Washington DC for twelve years and was NEVER racially harassed for being light-skinned. How is it that now, 60 years later, we cannot create community safe for all children, regardless of color? I believe that we can, not by wishing, not by ignoring history, but by listening, caring, working and voting.

Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City.


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