May 26 Racial Justice Study Group

Sunday, May 26, 2019 - 13:00

Deep Denial:  Ch 12 - Civil Rights Organizing North and South



1. When did you first become aware of “civil rights”? What was the context? Have your views changed over time?


2. Based on the following two articles (A guide to the controversy around NYC’s specialized high school and The blue line), what needs to be taken into consideration to continue the advancement of Civil Rights in NY? 


A Guide to the Controversy around NYC’s specialized high schools

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a plan to overhaul admissions to New York City’s elite public high schools, inviting some praise and even more backlash from students, parents and lawmakers. Admission to New York City’s specialized high schools is complicated under normal circumstances, so here is a guide to the schools, de Blasio’s proposal and the political tensions.

The Blue Line

By Lindsay Crouse and Kate Sinclair - Dec. 31, 2018

In 2016, filmmaker Samantha Knowles set out to document the controversy that erupted in Warwick, the small town she grew up in outside New York City, when a blue line was painted in support of police on a street in the town center. After the film premiered in The Times this year, conversations began anew about what has changed in Warwick, and what has remained the same. We caught up with town residents and the filmmaker for their thoughts on what lessons we can take from a divided community trying to find common ground.

Filmmaker Samantha Knowles

“The blue line forced Warwick to have a reckoning; with the national election, the kind of divisiveness that we’d witnessed in this country was happening in Warwick itself, and we had to do something. Yes, we reached a compromise, but it felt bittersweet. It effectively said, ‘We’ll bring back the blue line but we want to foster a better relationship between police and residents, and we want to make people feel safer’. But that’s much harder to do. So it wasn’t the watershed moment it could have been.”

 “The lesson of the film is that we can come together if we sit down and talk. But that’s not enough — you can talk all you want and not actually address the issues. So I actually think the film and the compromise it presents is a cautionary tale. It’s a reflection on whether neighbors are really willing to have a robust conversation about what it would take to change something.”

Town Residents Danielle Barbour, Joynell Barbour, and daughter Mya Joy Barbour

“The blue line represents a police fraternity. It makes officers into war heroes, and so they are not brought to justice as others doing the same things would be. When the law is not upheld, it’s seen as a way of barricading justice. And the blue line is still divisive. It’s something you don’t mention now between neighbors. It brought up something ugly that bubbled to the surface and now it’s right back underneath the surface.” — Joynell Barbour (right)

 “In a community that’s this close especially, this may be a scar that lasts a lot longer than two years. I was an EMT. I worked with cops for 10 years side by side on emergencies. My opinion is we should honor our police. A friend of mine and a partner on my ambulance squad died in the line of duty and I know what those funerals feel like. I think you do bond with the people around you and it is a different kind of brotherhood than other jobs. I respect that viewpoint. But what’s important to know is if it’s hurting other people because to them it means something else. And it scares and hurts some people as much as it honors and soothes others. Sometimes we need to both give.” — Danielle Barbour (center)

Town Library Director Rosemary Cooper

“Warwick has always been a community of people who are very active and involved and passionate about their particular perspectives. In light of all the other changes in our country, there has been a change in the whole character and flavor of how we speak to each other. What’s acceptable and not acceptable has been changing in some very dramatic, important ways, in some ways that are a little disquieting to some. There is a lot of hostility and a lot of heightened speech.”

 “It’s a sign of a healthy community when these things happen because it gives us all an opportunity to try and do better. People have a hard time listening to other people and they need practice doing it. Just because that’s not what you thought happened, it’s important to know what it meant to this person and how they felt. It’s very important that we continue to have these discussions that dig deeper than the surface.”

Town Resident Ralph William Boone

"I was surprised at how vicious and nasty the discourse around this topic could get. Like in this film, when you hear someone say, ‘Black people are killing each other like animals.’ These are my neighbors, that’s what they think of me? That’s a really surprising point of view. I’ve been around white people a lot. Once you spend a lot of time with them, they stop seeing you as black, and they talk honestly with you. It’s eye-opening.”

 “I think reconciliation is going to take talk and education. That’s what ultimately opened my eyes. I still don’t like the blue line but I understand now that it had history. I talked to a police officer and what I didn’t realize is that the blue line has been a symbol for the police for years, that it’s been around since the 1970s. That’s how they honor someone who is killed in duty. At first I was so upset because it seemed as though it was just a very specific response toward Black Lives Matter and it turns out it wasn’t. I think so many of us, both black and white, we’re arguing in ignorance.”





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