Jose: First off, you and I both know I don’t even like the word “minority” because, in the words of Piri Thomas, there’s nothing minor about me.
Mr. Vilson: Whoa, buddy! HAHA!
Jose: You know what I mean. There’s just no way we’re ever going to get respect in this country if we keep using that word on a daily basis about us!
Mr. Vilson: OK, fair enough, but I want to get to the question because it’s a fair question. I’m of the opinion that if everyone benefits from having people of different races and cultures in the classroom. It might not be the same thing for sex, though you know going to an all-boys school has its side effects in the relationship area …
Jose: Yeah, but what happens when kids from different background go to a school that’s supposedly diverse (meaning, there’s more than one color) but it’s overwhelmingly White and middle class? How does that environment support the few who’ve experienced the culture shock there?
Mr. Vilson: I’m not sure. In some schools, I’m sure it helps to have understanding faculty and colored staff that those individuals can lean on, and if not then …
Jose: YES! They fall by the wayside. All I’m saying is this: in history, there was a time when having all-Black schools was fine because Black teachers and staff made sure that kids had the skills to deal with the outside world. They learned their own histories and empowered each other in ways that can’t happen when culture is driven out of you by the dominant culture. When we read history books, it’s the same story. When we watch films, it’s the same story. When we listen to “good” music, it’s the same story.
Mr. Vilson: And that’s great, but you also know the struggle in this country to find equitable education for others. Separate and equal often meant separate and unequal. They didn’t get the same quality of books, the same facilities, or the same treatment when they tried to move on to high schools and colleges. I can’t imagine that people like Martin Luther King Jr. or anyone from that generation fought for nothing. How could you even think of perpetuating segregation when all that did was continue the deplorable socioeconomic treatment of our people?
Jose: Well, let’s ask then: did they? Look at how schools look now. Studies have shown that schools are more segregated than they were in MLK’s time, and that’s with MORE cultures in this country. Look at the situation in Arizona where only the curricula with heavy Mexican concentration in places where there’s a heavy Chicano influence have gotten bullied by local government officials. Now look at what’s happening all across the South where some districts have found ways to desegregate school districts …
Mr. Vilson: And government officials there are trying to fight it? So we’re going to give up desegregating because this country’s officials have found a way to tie race and economy in a way that creates a virtual caste system on too many levels? No way. We need to push for re-desegregation, because the only way our kids are going to get out of their little cocoons is to go out there and see what others are doing.
Jose: At the cost of their culture?
Mr. Vilson: It’s a risk they may have to take.
Jose: Well, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
Mr. Vilson: Whatever that means.
Jose, who has these discussions with Mr. Vilson all the time …