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Leaders could have used a quilt to inspire a conversation on race relations.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Martinsville City Council has decided to carry on as if the whole patchwork quilt controversy never flared.
Too bad. A group of fine students will lose an opportunity to broaden their minds by seeing their world through different eyes. And, at best, the city now will slip into polite silence between black and white on matters of race.
Denial will not bridge a racial divide.
And surely it was denial that prompted council to vote 4-1 this week to hang the quilt in question, and commend the work of some of the area’s best and brightest students — innocents, after all, in a drama not of their making — who designed its panels to illustrate what they’d learned about their area.
When they presented it to the city at council’s April 23 meeting, Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge sharply objected to one panel that, a student explained, shows “the small black person” on one side of a bridge, transformed by knowledge into a bigger, golden person on the other side. Hodge, who is black, strongly suggested the city should not display the quilt as is.
Some students cried.
Hodge since has been roundly vilified on social media. She later acknowledged her objections had been sharply stated, and apologized for their tone — but not their content.
In that, she is right. Unintended though the message may be, students should learn that an image of a small black person becoming a different color, and thus better, does offend. A black child who picks up this message — quite intended — every day, in myriad ways, may well see it in their quilt.
Understanding that should not be a stretch. Before the community can acknowledge the hurt, it must be able to see it.
Thus the need for dialogue that heals.
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