printing, power, privilege

I had to snag this incredible blog post from Amanda, who describes a conversation from today that she had with her Green band, who range from ten to thirteen years old. I’m reposting with her permission:

Last night, kiddos researched the parts and pieces of a Gutenberg printing press. Since they’re going to be the experts on our engineering project, they spent time researching how it works, why it works, its different iterations, and – perhaps the most fun – the evolution of fonts. (They all know what “san serif” means now.)

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And then, in one of those nonchalantly brilliant quirks that happen often at Brightworks, we got into the why. What did the printing press do? became Why was it important? and How did it change the world? We drew up maps of the crusades; we revisited the power of sharing – spreading – ideas; we imagined civilizations without words, versus ones with. Can a civilization survive if their only means of communication is a “giant game of telephone”? Spot on, kiddos. You’d need a vessel to disperse your thoughts, far and wide and fast. And voila! The printing press. Massive expansion of words, books, ideas, people. Today, even, the countries in power (listed by the kids: USA, parts of Europe, Russia, China) are predominately derived from that spread of ideas, from that spark of survival, from that zenith of innovation. How the printing press changed the world.

And isn’t that funny? Some places have more power than others.

Like, hey, I heard about this thing. Can we talk about Ferguson?

I heard that this happened. I heard that that happened. And do you know another black boy was shot recently? Not even in Ferguson, but somewhere else. It’s happening a lot of places. The problem is, would it be happening if any of those kids were white? No!

And you know what I think? I don’t think the specific details of the one case in Missouri matter. Why?

Because it’s happening a lot. Black kids are dying –

Black people are dying!

And it’s wrong. They shouldn’t be shot, a lot of times they’re innocent. Honestly, even if they had stolen something, you shouldn’t be shot. Why are they getting shot?

I think we should call them People of Color – it’s not just black people, it’s all shades of brown that are being oppressed like this. Why?

I think privilege is when I walk to school or to the store, I don’t have to be worried. I’m not afraid. I know I’m safe. But what if I was afraid? What if I never felt safe, just doing those things?

When I walk my dog at night and it’s dark, I am always worried that my white neighbors will get nervous when I cross the street. Sometimes I ask my grandma to come with me, just so they won’t be afraid of me. But like, I’m not going to do anything! They don’t have to be afraid of me!

Why does America have all these problems? Did you know, in the past, only white men could vote. Only rich white men! Not people of color, not women. What a mess. Things are still a mess.

It’s not fair that white people grab their bags when they pass a person of color, or zig zag around the street. IF that person of color is walking nervously, looks nervous or “suspicious”, then it’s because they’ve been trained to do that. They’re used to being thought of as bad guys.

I could go out and wear a hoodie, but a person of color out wearing the SAME hoodie would be considered suspicious. What are they supposed to wear? It’s cold outside!

Change is really hard. It’s always hard. Because when someone’s in charge, it feels really good. They probably don’t want to change. Like, if your life is perfect, why would you want anything different? But it’s wrong. What’s happening is wrong.

This reminds me of something we talked about earlier – superheroes. Superheroes are powerful, but they have to make sacrifices. They choose to make those sacrifices; it’s important to them to do the right thing. They’re responsible. If you have power, you need to be responsible. Power has responsibility.

You’re right, kiddos. If you have power, and you do, and I do. We do. We can walk to the store without being afraid, and wear hoodies on the bus without getting pegged as a criminal. And we go to a great school, and have access to a strong education, and get our fresh tomatoes weekly at the farmer’s market. So what are we going to do? What can we do?

I think if you have those things – if you have privilege, if you have power – it’s your job to make the world a better place.

For everyone.