Sunday, we saw a moving play in two acts about a conversation between a white professor at an elite private college and a black history student. It was moving. Tough to watch. Didn’t answer any questions. “The Niceties.”
From the article about white playwright, Eleanor Burgess, and the play’s creation:
The imbroglio at Yale made Burgess, a former high school history teacher, realize that smart, educated, and well-meaning Americans couldn’t talk to each other about race. ‘ I started to believe that we actually disagree much more than we think we do.’
…the advantage of having the debate unfold on stage, where audience members are not taking part in the conversation directly. ‘You’re not personally being attacked, and you don’t have to think of a next thing to say. So you can actually hear the entire conversation and just let it wash over you.’
Who gets to decide what perspective is important?
What role does the insistence on source documents in writing about history play in discounting the history of slavery in general and the lives of the enslaved, in particular?
Where should people in positions of power draw the First Amendment line when it comes to triggering images and content?
What would happen if professors were more open to the strengths of millennials (and less reflexively dismissive)?
If saying “sorry” isn’t enough in the wake of a problematic encounter, what sorts of reparations are?
Should change be approached incrementally or in dramatic sweeps? And, who decides?
What actual supports do students of color need and deserve on college campuses, particularly bastions of privilege like the ivy leagues.
(The role these institutions play in perpetuating a closed loop of power is particularly on display this week with the Kavanaugh revelations).
Back to work.
PS is it weird that all four of us who watched the play think that Kavanaugh will be appointed and yet nevertheless find the many ways that protest and pushback are having an effect in real time, inspiring?