BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


invasive and pervasive
May 9, 2009, 6:43 pm
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a couple of days ago i went to oona and florence’s 3rd grade music performance of “how does the garden grow?”, expecting some awkward cuteness and cheesy music, and instead got some not so subtle racist doctrine.

the story began with a song about a thriving flower garden, sang by  (white) girls dressed like flowers. then the weeds (all boys) took over, with their “rap” song about being tough, invasive, rough and less refined.  and how can then the gardener get rid of the rapping weeds? by singing a hoedown. for real. so they sang their hoedown, and the first time it did not work, but when they sang it again they finally got rid of the invasive weeds.

bloomington is a mostly white town in indiana, a state with a brutal history of racism, and i just can’t dismiss the fact that such a plot is only perpetuating a certain narrative, and specific stereotypes about blacks. most kids in this town have no african american friends, and get their sense of people of color mainly from the media. it saddens me that such prejudices are put forth by the school system too.

i am so sick of just letting things go, and believing nothing is a big deal, because this shit keeps on going on if it is mostly overlooked.

i wrote to their music teacher the following email:

Ms. Nesbitt,

I really appreciated your efforts in putting together the recital for
Ms.Krothe’s class and all the time spent practicing. However, being in
the audience tonight i could not help but to be deeply uncomfortable
about the dynamics of the story.

I felt that the story had a blatant racialization of characters, and
followed stereotypes about people of color, especially considering the
lack of diversity in Bloomington and at Templeton. The story tells of
a thriving garden that is taken over by weeds. The weeds happen to
rap, which is a traditional form of African American expression, and
sing about being tough, about taking over, and being invasive, which
has been historically an accusation made by whites about blacks.
Indiana has a long history of racism, segregation, and “sundown”
counties and towns, which were and are places where ethnic groups, and
especially African Americans, were driven out by violence or not
allowed to reside. The justification that whites made for such
violence was precisely that blacks were invasive, aggressive, and
“less than”.

In the story the rapping weeds are then driven out by a hoedown, which
is undeniably a very white form of expression. Again with the history
of Indiana, and the U.S., it is appalling to me that such references
are not recognized and discouraged. Yes, the kids are young and might
not be aware of the violent history of racism of this country, but it
does not help to perpetuate stereotypes that lead to more
discrimination, and definitely do not challenge the existing
misconceptions about people of different ethnic backgrounds.

her response?

“Interesting view.”

that is it. wow!