On Monday the 16th, Bates cancelled all classes in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and offered students multiple workshops, talks, and performances with the theme “Reparations.” The activities began with a discussion entitled “Reparations 101” and a Keynote speaker, Khalil Gibran Muhammad who is an educator and author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.”
There were multiple workshops offered during the day with different and diverse topics; one such workshop was entitled “Addressing the Earliest Educational Injustices: How Unconscious Bias Feeds the Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline” and was led by Christopher Northrop, Clinical Professor at the University of Maine School of Law; Caroline Wilshusen, Associate Dean for Admissions at the law school; and De’Anna Mills, Juris Doctor candidate at the law school. The focus of this particular talk was on explicit and implicit bias in schools across the country. There were multiple videos shown of educators in elementary, middle, and high school settings using racial slurs when speaking to African-Americans and mentally and physically abusing them.
At the second part of the workshop, videos of school resource officers—police officers who work in schools to enforce certain behavior—were shown. There was an instance where a police handcuffed an African-American boy with ADHD; however, handcuffs are not to be used on small children. In another instance the police officer used physical force on three middle school girls. The videos were followed by questions and comments from the audience who shared their personal stories in the United States schooling system, thus normalizing the actions of the teachers and police officers because they themselves have experienced it.
The majority of workshops were led by educators and professionals outside of the Bates community, thus giving the students more insight about systemic racism. The debate regarding the “Motion: This house believes the state should exclusively focus on rectifying current inequalities to the exclusion of compensating for historical injustices,” was led by students Tessa Holtzman ’17 and Zoe Seaman-Grant ’17 who argued for and against reparations to the African-American community. With interesting insights and point, it was clear that each side had done extensive research. A point was made that reparations would not solve anything, for the African-American community would not invest in their own community. It was argued that the government should start programs and fund education, retrain their police officers, and reform the prisons. An opposing point was made that the government has failed with programming in the past and that the African-American community knows what is best for them.
The events concluded with a Hip-Hop Dance Workshop, which focused on the culture and movement of hip-hop dance and performance of Sankofa presents Testimonies of Melanin Magic.