Virus

You’re scared, because you don’t feel safe. Maybe if you do all the right things, you’ll avoid it. Maybe there’s a way to keep your children safe, your elders protected, your mentally challenged family member from putting himself at risk. Maybe extreme vigilance will keep everyone you love from harm.

You’re angry, because you have to alter plans, take extra precautions, work around rules that you had no part in setting. And still you may not escape it.

You’re exhausted, because the threat seems unending. Maybe you’re not even safe at home.

You’re grieving, because every day more and more people–folks who look like you–suffer and die needlessly.

Coronavirus? No, I’m talking about another public health crisis–a pattern of police using deadly force against Black people.

After George Floyd suffocated to death under a white cop’s knee on his neck, how can we white people continue to look away from the insidious virus that has infected this country from its inception–that of white supremacy? 

The loss of humanity that would enable someone to kneel on another human being’s neck while he gasps for air? I can’t fathom it. It’s sickening. But that doesn’t mean I should look away.

Notice: The people gasping for air because of COVID-19 are disproportionately people of color. They must daily deal with the stress of racism, which takes a very real physiological and psychological toll. Meanwhile access to resources is inordinately skewed in favor of people who look like me. The deck is stacked, and COVID-19 only reveals the disparities more. (Here’s data about coronavirus and the Black community in my county.)

Frans de Waal, a biologist, has said that empathy is an essential part of the survival package of any species, and that includes humans. Will we survive this time in our history? Can we expand our understanding and empathy rapidly, or will we close our personal borders, shut down all gateways to the truth of our interconnectedness?

Yes, we are all in this together, but people who have been shortchanged all along are being hit harder. May our collective experience of facing down COVID-19 unify us, enlarge our empathy for each other, and make us see more clearly how to create a future where all are valued, respected, and offered the same access to resources, healthcare, jobs, education, housing, etc. etc. etc.

Gratitude: I’m grateful for cogent voices calling for change, like How to be an Antiracist author Ibram X. Kendi, local organizer Imhotep Adisa, 1619 Project journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Me and White Supremacy author Layla Saad.

Tip of the Day: Support local Black-led changemaking groups in your community (Kheprw Institute is a standout here).

Resource of the Day: Anti-racism resources for white people.

KI EcoCenter: Transforming Education

Second in a series on education
KI EcoCenter, or Kheprw Institute, has been making change for nearly a decade in my hometown. In recent years, educator Khalil MwaAfrika came on board the community empowerment center to start an independent school. He was tired of discussing school reform while watching the educational system destroy African-American children, particularly boys.

Khepri, by Jeff Dahl via Wikimedia Commons

Khepri, by Jeff Dahl (GFDL or Creative Commons) via Wikimedia Commons

Instead of reform, he is invested in nothing less than education’s complete transformation. As  mentioned in a previous post, “Kheprw” was an Egyptian god with a scarab beetle head. This beetle was a symbol of rebirth in Egypt—so the center is fittingly named.

KI’s school offers a rigorous program for African-American students. Classes are very small, allowing a high degree of mentorship. Community members interact with the students every day in this intergenerational model.

MwaAfrika emphasizes that igniting a passion for learning is key. Instead of promoting a particular ideology, faculty create space for discourse and dialogue. In that environment the children learn critical thinking skills. They are encouraged to puzzle things out themselves.

In contrast with the traditional school system, here there is no need for the youngsters to feel they must give up their own rich culture in order to succeed.

This issue came up repeatedly at the center’s recent Real Talk Summit on urban education. Because our dominant culture is white/upper middle class, racism is the water we all swim in—leading to schools that don’t believe in children from other races and classes.

A faculty member and student at KI EcoCenter Community School

A faculty member and student at KI EcoCenter Community School

But KI is different. “We’ve set up an environment where (black students) can be themselves, where they can learn exponentially, where they never have to compromise who they are,” MwaAfrika says.

KI founder Imhotep Adisa notes, “The primary purpose of education is indoctrination. It’s not liberation.”

Part of that indoctrination is the consumerism that is jeopardizing the earth. “We’re at a very ugly place in the history of the planet,” he says. “Regardless of gender, race, and class, the old paradigm has accelerated this…We have to develop new tools for a new paradigm. We have to have the courage to say, ‘That’s not the world we want for ourselves and our children.’”

KI’s adults model that courage every day. Teaching youth to interface with the culture of power while retaining their identity is a critical aspect of their work.

Social enterprises are part of this, as the students work with KI’s bootstrappers (young adults) to develop the skills needed to thrive in a resource-strapped world.

Barrel at left is via KI's Express Yourself Rainbarrels enterprise, with my chosen artwork

Barrel at left is via KI’s Express Yourself Rainbarrels enterprise, with my chosen artwork

Above (at left) is the rainbarrel made by bootstrappers and students for my urban homestead, via the Express Yourself Rainbarrels enterprise. My partner added it to our rain catchment setup, just in time for big rains.

(Indy-area readers, check it out: Save on your water bill, display your artwork, and support a great organization all at the same time.)

Read more about KI’s work in my Indiana Living Green story.

Next: Bloomington’s homeschooling cooperative, exploring the homestead as learning environment.